For Jerry Sloan's Extension
There's always those who wish Sloan had retired 5, 10, or even 20 years ago, and they're always too happy to vocalize their displeasure that Jerry is the Iron Man of coaching and still there yelling and flashing what could be misconstrued by a J.R. Smith fan as gang signs.
Some 20-odd years ago, I admit, I was a Sloan basher too.
A couple of years into what has become a tremendous tenure I said to a friend and fellow Jazz fanatic that I thought Utah needed fresh blood on the bench, that Sloan didn't have a clue what he was doing. I mean, he never called timeouts to quell runs. He had no business running this team on game nights.
My pal, a wiser young man than I, told me to chill out, that I was mistaken. That Sloan was a great coach and knew exactly what he doing. That I needed to pay closer attention and give the man a chance.
I did, and over the next couple of years found that I'd become a staunch supporter of Jerry Sloan. I came to appreciate his unrecognized-at-the-time brilliance, and to identify the little things that made him such a basketball savant, such a genius among his peers.
What follows are a scant few examples of Sloan's real genius, from the epic win in the Miami Mill-slap.
After trailing by 22 points the Jazz have chipped away and fought back to tie the ballgame with the Miami Heat at 79-up. Utah had used only one timeout in the 2nd half to this point in the contest.
After trading a couple of buckets a flagrant call on Price stole away the momentum from the charging Jazz. James Jones would make both free throws to put the Heat up 81-84, then on the subsequent possession awarded to Miami for the flagrant it would begin to unravel for Utah.
4:41 Deron Williams turnover
4:20 Dwyane Wade makes dunk (LeBron James assists) 81-88
What had been a close one started suddenly slipping away for the Jazz and the fans could feel it.
I'm big on interactive media during games, and during this stretch fans' consternation at Sloan refusing to stop play and regroup his guys with a timeout was palpable. On multiple live blogs and Twitter (and I'm sure message boards as well, if you were to check) comments were flying, shooting down Sloan for not holding back the Heat's building momentum.
Many of us longtime fans of Sloan and the Jazz are used to this method. Fellow HOF'er Phil Jackson also employs it, preferring to let his guys learn to play through rough patches. Makes for tougher players and keeps 'em from becoming dependent on being bailed out.
But it serves another purpose as well.
Had Sloan burned a TO when fans wanted him to there wouldn't have been one when they really needed it at the end, when Sloan was able to use the last of this tool available to him to do what the second stop on our tour inside Jerry's mind's eye revealed to us in this particular showdown.
0:37 Dwyane Wade makes free throw 2 of 2 90-98
If Jazz fan hadn't already turned off the TV at halftime, many did so now. It was over. Done. Say g'night, Gracie.
But remember how Sloan refused to burn his breaks earlier in the game? By not doing so then he had now given his guys one last chance to pull a proverbial rabbit out of their collective hat.
0:37 Utah 20 Sec. timeout
0:28 Paul Millsap makes 25-foot three point jumper (Deron WIlliams assists) 93-98
Suddenly back to a two-possession game with plenty of time left, in Jerry-time terms, Miami is forced to take a timeout. After some slick subbing in and out for intentional foul-making purposes Carlos Arroyo is purposely put on the line. The only avenue left for Sloan and the Jazz is to try and extend the game, get one more possession, give yourself one last gasp, by chipping away at the lead.
0:27 Carlos Arroyo misses free throw 1 of 2 93-98
Sloan is a master at extending games to squeeze another possession out of them. He's done it throughout his career. There was a game last season where Utah started fouling intentionally and was ridiculed on national television for doing so too early by the announcers. The Jazz would come back to have a shot to win that game by employing the same strategy.
0:21 Deron Williams makes 25-foot three point jumper 96-99
0:19 Kyrylo Fesenko personal foul (Carlos Arroyo draws the foul)
The former Jazzman would make 'em both to put the Heat back up by two possessions. However...
0:12 Paul Millsap makes 26-foot three point jumper (Deron Williams assists) 99-101
Three is greater than two, and after two more rounds of elementary math courtesy Paul Millsap, two more trips to the line for Arroyo after intentional fouls, and two more timeouts, the Jazz would find themselves in a position to tie the bout and send it to OT, a position few other teams will find themselves in. Because they don't possess the savvy of a Jerry Sloan.
Utah finds themselves in similar situations at least a few times a year, and while the odds that everything goes the way it needs to for the team that's behind to pull one out of their...uh, hat, and come back to win are slim, Sloan at least gives his guys that chance to steal away a game.
And Jazz fans know all too well what one more win can do for you. It can make all the difference in the world of the wild Western Conference at the end of the season.
Start of the 1st Overtime
Most coaches would now trot out all still-available starters. But not Jerry Sloan. Nuh-uh. Not this time.
The early season offensive struggles of the Jazz have been well documented, due largely to unfamiliarity with the offense and each other.
Flash back to 3rd Quarter
1:58 Kyrylo Fesenko enters the game for Al Jefferson
Big Al was suffering this particular night, and along with him the Utah offense also suffered. So Sloan pulled him after going 1-7 from the floor on the night and we didn't see him again (which also turns out to be a stroke of genius as Al would bounce back in a big way the following night against Dwight Howard, thanks in large part to his fresh legs after playing only 28 minutes versus Miami).
In fact, Sloan would opt to play an entire lineup of players that were familiar with the offense and each other, rather than putting in the more seasoned options he had, which is what 90% of the coaches in this league would have done. No Francisco Elson, no Earl Watson, and after fouling out no Deron Williams either.
Instead, a group of guys that had no business going up against the likes of the vaunted Big 3 of Miami calmly took the floor.
I'm talking Fesenko on Chris Bosh. C.J. Miles on Dwyane Wade. Andrei Kirilenko on two-time MVP LeBron James. Now-journeymen Millsap and Ronnie Price rounded out Sloan's starting OT five, and they beat the Heat by a point, forcing Miami to resort to intentionally fouling to try and pull off a Sloan.
How could they? They don't have Jerry. We in Jazzland do.
I, for one, will smile and probably offer a quiet golf clap when Jerry Sloan puts that pen to paper for another tour of duty with the Jazz, but I won't blame you one bit if I see you jumping for joy when he does.