It might have seemed strange.....
One of my fondest memories of growing up consists of my friends and I shooting hoops in the street for hours on end. Each of us would pretend that we were some superstar...Bird, Magic, Jordan, Stockton! For years we idolized those guys. I am not quite sure when it happened, but one day my dad noticed that I was always asking questions such as "What play do you think Sloan is gonna call next" or "Do you think Sloan will get tossed out again tonight for using that language" For whatever reason, I began to idolize Sloan just as much as I did Stockton, Malone, and Hornacek.
As I grew older, I found myself so excited whenever the post-game interviews would be with Coach Sloan. I couldn't quite place my finger on it, but I just loved listening to the guy. He was tough as nails, didn't beat around the bush, acknowledged when he might not have known something, and was so passionate about getting the most out of each of his players.
In time, when I became old enough to buy tickets to the games (and eventually season tickets), all of my friends were buying the jersey of their favorite players. You probably already guessed it...........but this was my choice of jersey:
Later in life, I was fortunate enough to win a Sprite sponsored Utah Jazz Flyaway contest for some game I played on the floor during a Magic vs Jazz game. We got to fly out to LA with the team and attend the Jazz vs Lakers game while sitting in the Sprite/Coke suite. During the trip, we were able to attend the shootaround with the team:
I am the chubby guy in the center with a black shirt and black hat on. lol
The highlight of the trip for me, though, was getting a private dinner with the coaching/training staff. It was here that I finally got my dream of meeting Sloan. He sat across the table from me, and it took me a good ten minutes to muster up the courage to talk to the guy. It was during this conversation about tractors, Illinois, school, the Lakers, and a variety of other topics that I realized some of other reasons that I idolized the guy. He was just a very simple, kind, hard working man. He didn't know a lot about technology, but he knew heaps and bounds about harvesting fields and about coaching. He knew what he knew, and you could tell that he gave it his all. In many ways it felt like I was talking to my own grandpa.
You can see me on the left sort of cut out of the picture(my wife was able to be my guest, and she took the picture), and Sloan is on the right chatting with me.
After returning from the LA trip, I felt many different feelings. I still idolized Sloan and the rest of the Jazz, but I also realized that they were just people. (Very tall people). A few weeks later I attended the Bulls vs Jazz game. It was a coincidence that I ended up with tickets that night. Little did I know that it would be Sloan's last game ever coached.
I was mad at DWill for a while...and mad at the organization for letting him go. Didn't they realize that Sloan was the most important piece of the team??!!! In time, I came to terms with it. I realized that it had to happen at some point, and it would have sucked either way. I wasn't happy about how it happened, but I realize now that it is more important to appreciate the legacy and impact that Sloan had on The Jazz, the fans, the state of Utah, and to this random fan.