During every game, he's standing on the sidelines, storming, stomping, clapping, yelling. In practices, he's in the middle of the floor, taking his defensive stance, reminding, encouraging, demanding. Away from the office, he's talking and thinking basketball.

And this is the laid-back version of Jerry Sloan.Now, in Chicago, that was another story.

"Oh, yeah," former player David Greenwood chuckles knowingly. "He's mellowed a lot since Chicago."

Says assistant coach Phil Johnson, "He was really uptight; he was such a perfectionist. Now he rolls with the punches a little more."

That's what four years with Frank Layden can do to a guy.

Actually, fun-loving image aside, Layden was occasionally much more intense and emotional than even Sloan in his prime. Just the same, the Jazz players had to wonder what to expect from Sloan when he took over the job in December and the team went on a tough eastern road trip.

The Jazz lost five of six games, including a 21-pointer at Miami. "They got a feeling as to who I was in a tough situation, how I would react," says Sloan, almost mischievously. "Would I practice 'em twice a day? Would I throw stuff all over the place? They probably gained a little more respect for me in that situation."

These days, things are looking up.The Jazz are playing defense in the Sloan image - the best in the NBA, in fact, in 15 years. Sloan is 35-23 since taking over, nobody's complaining much on the street or in the locker room and the Jazz are just a few days away from clinching the Midwest Division title.

All of which makes life more fun for Sloan and Johnson, who are treating the season like a long, long road trip. Away from their families, they live in a downtown hotel and spend day after day together, working, socializing and talking hoops.

"It's amazing," said Sloan. "When we're together, we probably spend as much time talking about basketball as anything else. It shows you how simple I am - that's all I can think about sometimes."

Uh, oh. Is Sloan another Mike Schuler? The ex-Portland coach was blamed for a first-round playoff loss to the Jazz last spring, be ing so wrapped up in basketball that he overworked the Blazers with film sessions and closed practices after a 53-win regular season and succeeded only in paralyzing them in a pressurized atmosphere. Could the same thing happen with the Jazz?

Sloan claims otherwise, and he has regular-season evidence. His practices are even shorter than Layden's and he's only held one extra film showing, the famous next-day screening of the Indiana game.

"I don't think I'm wrapped up in it to where I want to bury these guys in it," Sloan says.

"I think he's really adjusted well to understanding more than just coaching, and that's managing his players," notes veteran forward Marc Iavaroni.

That's also the expert opinion of Johnson, who's watched Sloan both in Chicago and Salt Lake. "A lot of the little things he used to worry about no longer worry him," he says.

Coaching a team like the Jazz helps. In Chicago, Sloan had to deal with a huddle full of personalities. "A lot of the quote-unquote stars were moaning and groaning because he was so intense," remembers Greenwood, now with Denver. "That's probably what led to his demise in Chicago. It wasn't Jerry's fault."

The late-80s Sloan is not exactly milquetoast, of course. He's made two starting lineup changes in the last month of the season, yells at Karl Malone for not rebounding, cringes at Darrell Griffith's taking quick shots and demands that the Jazz pound the ball inside.

The results are hard to question. If Sloan is inhibiting players like Griffith, he has his reasons. "In the game of basketball, you have to play to your strengths," he says. "I'm sure some guys feel they're not getting enough shots. They have to understand why, if I pull them back."

In Chicago, a young Reggie Theus wanted to run more - so did management. On this subject, Sloan becomes a little, uh, defensive. "There was never total agreement with me, not only from a players' standpoint, but from a management standpoint," he says.

So Sloan was fired in the middle of the '81-82 season. He's back. "He was really ready to become a head coach again," says Johnson.

What Sloan is, is consistent. The same every day. Outwardly, he's never seemed all that happy about beating the Lakers or especially unhappy about losing to the Heat.

And the sideline rantings that sometimes even rival Doug Moe's? "I relieve my tensions by the way I am on the floor," says Sloan. "My guts aren't turning inside out."