Jerry Sloan already has the title of The Next Jazz Coach, but he's not ready for the job just yet, says Jazz president-general manager David Checketts.

Sloan, 46, is entering his fifth season as Layden's chief assistant. Team owner Larry Miller has already promised him the job when Layden moves on, giving Sloan a second chance in the NBA. Sloan was fired by Chicago in the middle of the 1981-82 season, his third with the Bulls."We need some more time for Jerry to coach with Frank before Jerry's ready," says Checketts, "because technically, Jerry's outstanding, but the parts of Jerry's coaching ability he needed to improve on were probably the parts that got him in the situation he was in, in Chicago. That's what Frank's added."

Like . . . ?

"Handling players, handling the press . . . just getting through the tough times without panicking," Checketts said. "Jerry's a guy who made it through the tough times only by bulling his way ahead, and sometimes that's not the right approach. Frank's taught him that."

Admits Sloan, "I used to be very unflexible when I was coaching."

For now, Sloan has something close to the ideal, pure NBA coaching job. As Layden's assistant, he does about 90 percent of the coaching in practice and much of the play-calling and substituting during games, while avoiding the pressure and other demands on a head coach. "It's as good a situation as there is in the league for an assistant coach," he says.

Just the same, Sloan, who finished second to Ron Rothstein in Miami's search last summer, has lost no confidence about being a head coach. "I don't think there's any question I'll be a better coach," he says, "(but) that's not to say I don't think I did a good job. Obviously, no one's knocking down my door to hire me, but I've never had any doubts about my ability to coach."