Some things aren't appreciated until they move on. I just saw the news that Jerry Sloan is stepping down from his position as head coach of the Utah Jazz, a position he held for over twenty years. This in a league where lead coach changes are so prevalent that the situation is compared to a merry-go-round. The true impact of what has happened in Utah has yet to truly sink in. The NBA isn't losing another Sam Mitchell, Sloan is an icon of the sport. This is like the Statue of Liberty stepping down and moving to Florida, the NBA has lost someone too valuable to account for.
Jerry Sloan had been the coach of the Jazz for 23 years. In that time players had entire careers, dynasties rose and fell and babies reached drinking age. Sloan seemed the only constant. His Jazz teams made the playoffs 15 years in a row, and he won over a thousand games with a single team. Maybe it was his consistency in excellence that made people overlook him, Coach Sloan never won the Coach of the Year award in his time in the NBA.
More likely it was his no nonsense, hand in your face approach to the game that caused some to forget his name when award season came. Sloan didn't run a fancy offense, though it was efficient and effective. He was always a defense first coach, and that doesn't get you the cover of SI. His teams always had a certain feel to them. The Jazz were fundamental to the core, they played the way you wanted your team to play. Some of the greatest points in the game came up under his tutelage, but his teams weren't known for flash. They seemed to embody the blue collar vibe of their coach. The Jazz won over a loyal fan base in a market that few expected success.
Now, ESPN and the titans of sport are grumbling that his departure will mean the end of basketball in Utah. His departure will certainly be felt across the NBA, but few can predict what the future holds for the Jazz. It's hard to find a suitable analogy within basketball. No one did what he did, as well as he did, for as long as he did ever, in the history of the NBA. I don't know how to say goodbye, so thanks coach Sloan, for all of the memories. He did it his way, right to the end.