ORLANDO, Fla. — If Jerry Sloan would’ve traveled on this pre-Christmas road trip with the Utah Jazz, he would’ve had quite the reception at the Amway Center.
Three members of the Orlando Magic organization are among his biggest fans.
Head coach Jacque Vaughn and backup point guard Ronnie Price both played for him, and Gordon Chiesa, Vaughn’s special consultant, was Sloan’s assistant in Utah from 1989-2005.
When Sloan’s name was brought up during a pregame interview session before the Jazz’s 86-82 win Wednesday, Vaughn used the word “special” to describe the Hall of Famer. Vaughn played for Sloan and the Jazz from 1997-2001 before making NBA stops in Atlanta (twice), Orlando, New Jersey and San Antonio.
“The reason I do a lot of things I do today is because of him. Credit that organization for teaching me how to be a professional,” Vaughn said. “I had great teammates. I saw how he led us as a coach. His demeanor every day. His want every day. His drive. His loyalty. I’ll never forget it.”
Neither will Price, who played for the Jazz from 2007-11. The former Utah Valley star’s longest stint with one NBA team during his nine-year career was a memorable one.
“A lot of people can’t say that they had an opportunity to play for a coach like Coach Sloan and be a part of an organization like that,” Price said. “There’s (really no) words to describe what Sloan’s been for me. He’s a legend.”
Chiesa proudly talked about being teamed with Sloan and lead assistant Phil Johnson for 16 years, the longest any three coaches had ever been together on the same coaching staff.
Chiesa, who has been hired to essentially be Vaughn’s coach in Orlando, will be among the former coaches and players to attend Sloan’s banner-raising ceremony on Jan. 31, 2014 at EnergySolutions Arena.
Price is bummed he’ll miss it. While the Jazz host Golden State for Sloan’s ceremony, the Magic play Milwaukee in Orlando that Friday night.
“He taught a lot of younger guys, a lot of guys, more about life through basketball than anything else, and I love him for that,” Price said after the Magic’s morning shootaround Wednesday.
“I wish I could be there to be a part of that, but I’ll get my chance to see Coach again and explain to him how I feel and thank him again for what he’s done for me and my family and my career.”
Interestingly, Vaughn echoed that same sentiment hours later.
“When I was done playing (and) while I was playing, I always told him that I appreciated him,” Vaughn said. “And if I see him tonight, I’ll tell him again.”
Sloan, now the Jazz’s senior basketball adviser, did not accompany the Jazz on their annual pre-Christmas trip.
PAIN IN THE BACK: It hasn’t caused him to miss any games, but Jazz center Enes Kanter has been dealing with back pain since the weekend. He has been improving through treatment on the road.
“It’s getting so much better,” Kanter said. “Utah Jazz trainers, Gary (Briggs), are doing a really good job.”
When asked if the back issue had affected his play, Kanter quickly said, “I don’t want to make any excuses.”
Kanter only had two points on 1-of-6 shooting Wednesday, but he scored 14 points with eight rebounds in Monday’s loss at Miami.
BAD MEMORY: Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin laughed when asked if he recalled Price's monster jam over former Utah power forward Carlos Boozer back in 2006. The athletic Price, then with Sacramento, soared over the much taller Boozer for one of the best dunks of that season.
"I don’t want to talk about it," Corbin said.
While continuing to chuckle, the coach started recalling details.
"In Sacramento," he said. "We got him right after that."
SPECIAL REQUEST: Price continues to live in Utah during the summer, but he asked for one favor at the end of Wednesday’s interview: “Tell everyone ‘hello.’”
So there you go, everyone hello!
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