SALT LAKE CITY — Jacque Vaughn returned to Utah for the first time as a head coach Wednesday night.
The visit to the ex-Delta Center, located on the corner of John Stockton Drive and Karl Malone Boulevard, took him down memory lane to flashbacks of his first NBA home.
"A lot of good memories," Vaughn said at Orlando's shootaround Wednesday morning while gazing around 19,911 empty green seats at EnergySolutions Arena.
"A lot of friendships, relationships, a lot of winning," he said.
Like many Jazz fans, Vaughn's most fond Utah basketball moments included Hall of Famers Stockton, Malone and Jerry Sloan.
Vaughn played for Roy Williams at Kansas and has a lot of experience with Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, but he remains fond of Sloan. Sloan was the point guard's first coach after the Jazz drafted him late in the first round in 1997 (27th overall).
"I played for an unbelievable coach, that’s the first thing that comes to mind," Vaughn said. "He taught me how to be a professional, how to work hard in this league, how to, as he would say, bring my hard hat every day."
Sloan wasn't the only one who taught him about work ethic.
Fifteen years later, Vaughn still marvels at the way Stockton and Malone busted it on a daily basis even in the latter end of their careers.
"John was at every single practice. Even as a rookie, he was in line in front of me in every single drill," Vaughn recalled. "And Karl was unbelievable — his approach, his physicality, his taking care of his body, his work ethic, it was great for a young guy to see."
He discovered it wasn't always that way when his NBA career veered away from Utah.
"Even when I left here," he said, "it was even more appreciated than when I was here."
Vaughn was leaving a positive impression as well.
Having played with Vaughn, Jazz assistant coach Jeff Hornacek is hardly surprised to see his old teammate calling the shots from the sideline of an NBA squad.
"I knew him as a player and you saw him out there, he was always great at directing traffic and running the offense," Hornacek said. "He's got that sense of the game. It's not a surprise he's out there doing coaching."
Vaughn returned the compliment to his Jazz role models.
"I had great veteran guys who I was able to sit next to and see their focus and approach to each game, approach to practice, what it took to survive in this league," Vaughn said. "I've always said I'm proud of that, and I owe those guys a lot for the position I'm in today."
FRIDAY FOR FAVORS?: Derrick Favors missed his third straight game with a strained right arch (plantar fasciitis), but he hopes to resume physical activity by Friday.
"It's feeling better," he said. "The soreness went away, the swelling went down."
But the treatment, which includes alternating between heat and ice on his arch among other methods, continues on.
"It's boring," Favors admitted.
THIN AIR: On Wednesday morning, Vaughn was asked if Salt Lake City's altitude (about 4,400 feet above sea level) affects visiting players. He joked that he still has the same "non-jump" wherever he goes.
"I couldn't dunk and I still probably can't dunk," Vaughn said. "So, I don't think it matters."
STILL THERE: Marvin Williams returned to the Jazz for the first time in a week after missing the past three games with concussion-like symptoms. Earlier in the day, the small forward was asked if he thought his absence would affect his shooting.
"I was joking around today, it's like riding a bike," he said. "If you can shoot it, you can always shoot it. That's definitely not going to be a problem for me."
Williams played 23 minutes and hit 3 of 7 shots in an eight-point, four-rebound performance.
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