HOUSTON — Talking to his team Friday, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan dropped a fun fact that few — if any — of his players knew.

He and Houston Rockets coach Rick Adelman once were teammates.

No details were offered, but the message Sloan wanted conveyed indeed was delivered.

"He said, 'It's gonna be physical. I played with Rick, and that's how it's gonna be,"' Jazz All-Star Carlos Boozer said before the Jazz opened the 2008 NBA playoffs with Saturday night's Game 1 of a first-round series with Adelman's Rockets.

It's no coincidence that the same might be said of Sloan.

"I'm sure they respect each other a great deal," Boozer said. "They're still friends, from what I know, and I trust it's gonna be a good rivalry for them as well."

Rivalry, however, may be overstating things a bit.

Mutual respect might be more like it.

"He's a wonderful teammate, and a wonderful person, first of all," ex-Chicago Bull Sloan said of Adelman, who played 77 games for the Bulls during the 1973-74 and 74-75 NBA seasons. "And he's a very knowledgeable basketball person. I just feel fortunate to have at least called him my friend.

"He's just a nice man, and he does a wonderful job coaching," added Sloan, who actually is 1-4 in all-time playoff series against Adelman-coached teams — including two losses when he was with Portland, and two when he was with Sacramento.

"You know, he's made some great players out of a lot of guys that were just struggling around. He gets guys to play hard. I don't care who they are. That's a real knack in this business, and he does it very quietly."

Adelman paid back the compliments and offered an anecdote to help explain how the two grew so close even though they played only a season-and-a-half together.

When Adelman first joined the Bulls, it seems, Sloan helped him and his wife get their new household settled. He did it by taking them to various garage sales around the Chicago area, a favorite hobby of his.

"He was so good," Adelman said Saturday, "I can't even tell you.

"Jerry has a real gruff, gruff nature about him to everybody else," the first-year Rockets coach added, "but he's also a terrific guy."

Adelman also called Sloan "the perfect teammate," and earlier last week told the Houston Chronicle, "When I played against him I thought he was a really dirty player; when I played with him I loved him."

The comment from Adelman, whose seven-season NBA career included 28 games with the (New Orleans) Jazz during the 1974-75 season, didn't even prompt Sloan to blink.

"Well, I wasn't too friendly with a lot of people," the longtime Jazz coach said. "You know, I was trying to make a living — and everybody else was trying to take it away from you.

"You've got to compete like the devil to stay in the league," added Sloan, who once invited Adelman to observe a Jazz training camp when his friend was briefly out of work after losing his job in Portland. "I know I didn't have the talent a lot of players did. Rick and I were kind of the same: We had to play hard in order to be able to get to stay out there."

E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com