Mike Terry, Deseret Morning News
Jerry Sloan calls a play during his 1,000th NBA victory as a head coach.

Asked to characterize his history-making coach, Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko reached into his own past and pulled out the most complimentary description he could.

"He's typical Russian coach — especially, like, old-generation coach," said Kirilenko, whose first real look at Jerry Sloan came when he watched on television in his native Russia as Sloan's Jazz faced Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1997 and '98 NBA Finals.

"They're kind of straight, they like for everybody (to) listen, everybody to be very organized, kind of be as a team," said Kirilenko, just a teen back then. "I think it comes from the old USSR — it was spiritual, the whole team is supposed to stay together, supposed to eat together, sleep together, everybody go one way together. He's kind of like this."

That's just one collection of kind words used to heap praise upon Sloan, who notched his 1,000th NBA coaching victory with the Jazz's win over Dallas on Monday night.

Others came as Sloan approached the milestone mark not only from Kirilenko's current Jazz teammates, but opposing players and coaches alike.

"They're the best-coached team in the NBA," Milwaukee Bucks big man Andrew Bogut, who watched Sloan work from a distance during his days at the University of Utah, said of the 16-5 Jazz.

"The way Jerry runs his program has been like a template for me ... just watching what he does, although I've never been able to do it was well as he does it," added San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, who served as an assistant along with Sloan on head coach Larry Brown's 2004 USA Basketball Olympic team. "The consistent effort, the consistent execution and the no-nonsense approach to the game — he makes guys earn their paychecks out there, and he's gotten that across for so many years it's impressive. It's a testament to his leadership."

Sloan joins just four others who have reached the milestone plateau: fourth-place Brown, whom he will pass with 11 more victories; third-place Pat Riley; second-place Don Nelson, who recently hit the 1,200-win mark; and No. 1 Lenny Wilkens, who tops the list at 1,315.

Joining such a select list speaks volumes not only about Sloan's longevity, but also his approach to the game, Jazz guard Derek Fisher suggests.

"If you had to pick one word about Coach, then the one you want to put next to his picture is 'professionalism.'" Fisher said. "Anybody who can put a suit on, or put a jersey on, as many times as he has over the last 20-some years, and do it with the intensity and the passion and just the love for his team to play well and win — you know, there are not many out there who have done that.

"So, I'm very fortunate to be in this position, and learn from his example," added Fisher, who is playing his first season under Sloan after spending most of his career with the Los Angeles Lakers and a couple of years at Golden State. "Getting a chance to see how he still loves to come to work, and how he still pushes us hard to go out there and play good basketball — it says a lot about him."

Even more telling, at times, is what Sloan himself says.

The farmer from Illinois frequently slips homespun humor into coaching, occasionally leaving more than one player trying to figure out not only what he meant but also where he's coming from.

"Sometimes," Kirilenko joked, "you can't understand him. ... Nobody. Even American guys."

NBA regular-season coaching victories (W-L)

1. Lenny Wilkens, 1,332-1,155

2. Don Nelson, 1,200-891

3. Pat Riley, 1,160-600

4. Larry Brown, 1,010-800

5. Jerry Sloan, 1,000-663


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