If Jerry Sloan is the headmaster of basketball's "old school," BYU head coach Dave Rose is one of his students.
On hearing the news of Sloan's resignation last week, Rose said, "I'm actually kind of sad." Rose said he spoke with Sloan on many occasions over the years, but "not much about basketball; just about the job."
"You talk about a true professional, a guy who came to work every day with the energy to get his team to play the way he wanted them to play," says Rose. "I don't know if you'll ever find another coach who was as good as Jerry at doing that every day, night-in and night-out."
Rose was describing Sloan, but he could well have said those things about himself. While Sloan and Rose are different in many ways, I see in both coaches many similar traits, and their two careers actually share some common ground.
Sloan's Jazz coaching career began in 1984. Rose came to the state in 1984, starting his coaching career at Millard High.
Both coaches served as assistants for the organizations they would lead as head coaches; Sloan served under Frank Layden before assuming the head coaching post with the Jazz, while Rose worked alongside Steve Cleveland before becoming BYU's bench boss.
Both coaches' families faced battles with cancer. Sloan lost his wife Bobbye to the disease, while Rose survived a rare form of pancreatic cancer in the summer of 2009.
Both coaches have recently coached supremely talented point guards, and both Sloan and Rose handled their star guard's rookie seasons in much the same fashion. Sloan brought Deron Williams off the bench for much of his first season, while Rose didn't give Jimmer Fredette a single start during his freshman year.
Most importantly, however, the two coaches are linked by their will and their ability to win.
Sloan leaves having set the NBA record for most wins with one team, a team that had winning seasons in 19 of his 21 full campaigns. Sloan won multiple division and conference championships. While Rose is only in his sixth season as BYU's head coach, he has won 20 or more games in every season, and is already only one win away from assuming second place on BYU's career coaching victory tally. Rose has multiple conference championships and is the school and Mountain West Conference's career leader in win percentage. Rose is about to guide BYU to a fifth-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in school history.
Sloan and Rose also share traits that transcend the numbers. Both coaches rarely utter a sentence without the word "win" involved, followed closely by the word "team." Rose in particular is asked incessantly about Fredette, the presumptive national player of the year in college hoops. No matter the nature of his response, Rose is sure to talk about how badly Jimmer wants to win games, and how important Fredette's teammates are in finding ways to win.
Like Sloan, Rose rejects self-promotion. Like Sloan, Rose is passionate and vociferous on the sidelines. Unlike Sloan, Rose manages to avoid technical fouls, due in part to a vocabulary that is less descriptively expansive, when it comes to communicating with the officials.
Like Sloan, Rose has ardent supporters among his current and former players, fellow coaches and fans. Neither coach has gone about making enemies in the profession, while respect for their accomplishments is practically universal.
Both coaches are serious men, but both have a sense of humor. Both men can be stern to the point of scary, but both have an outward humanity that makes them approachable.
Rose has twice been named as the MWC Coach of the Year, while Sloan never won the NBA's corresponding honor. I am among many who think that is a serious injustice. As an "old school" student, Rose knows that "you don't coach for those things." He then adds that "as a Jerry Sloan fan, just wish I could have seen him win a championship."
Greg Wrubell is the radio play-by-play "Voice of the Cougars," and hosts BYU Football and Basketball Coaches' Shows on KSL Newsradio and KSL 5 Television. Wrubell's blog "Cougar Tracks" can be found at byu.ksl.com. "Behind the Mic" is published every Tuesday during the BYU football and basketball seasons.