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Jazz / Bulls Former Head Coach Jerry Sloan will coach another team

I think that it would be unfair to force someone who has trained and worked for such a long time at only one thing to adapt to a whole new life. When I first moved to Detroit years ago the grounds keeper for the apartment complex I lived within was a nice old man. He was engaged mentally, and a pleasure to talk to. While some of his opinions weren't always the same ones I held, he was a principled man who had always performed his duty to his family, to his children, to his country (a number of tours of duty). Yet he was working at this job in his 70s. I never asked him why he was doing it. But it was obvious. He was a veteran autoworker who was at his job for decades, and became too expensive to keep -- so his job was terminated. And he was thrust into another line of work, another type of life -- and he was less good at this. And he was way less happy in life.

This guy, Dennis, was always friendly to me. However, the rest of his co-workers didn't love him the way I did. I respected him for what he went through and what he had done. The people he worked with felt like he was just another guy who was finding it hard to adapt in their world. Dennis is no longer around. But from what I knew of him, he wasn't a guy who could remain idle.

Some people just need to be busy, even if it isn't financially necessary. Some people can't NOT do work, especially after WORKING for decades. Jerry Sloan clearly is one of those people. He and Dennis come from that same conservative, hard working, midwestern, WWII pre-baby boom generation. Based upon my experiences with Dennis -- a guy who didn't need to spend all day at home or taking care of grand children or great grand children -- I have come to the conclusion that Jerry Sloan will one day coach another team.

Though, just which team he coaches may come as a surprise to you . . .

What does a coach do?

What is the integral aspect of a coach? He is a friend? An educator? A disciplinarian? A competitor? Someone who will fight? Someone who creates systems and structures for behavior? A tactician? A motivator? Someone who knows the game? I think that a coach is all of these THINGS in varying degrees; however, what a coach does is above all else, help. Sure, Sloan doesn't look like the type of guy you associate with being upset helpful and nurturing -- however that's kinda what he is at his roots. Sloan moved away from being a player to being a coach. And what he did was help other people get better. He was no longer a primary industry type, they had promoted him to Head Coach. He became management, and a huge part of being management is to constantly interact, instruct, and improve those around you.

I can assume that not being able to do those very things is a huge life change for Jerry. (jump cut to scenes of him yelling at his wife for not cooking the roast the right way / swearing at a parent - teacher interview because they weren't being fair with the grading of his step son). Jerry isn't built for retirement. He may be older. He may get thrown out of games less. He may have less patience and energy for 'crap'. But he's still Jerry Sloan. He's still a fiery competitor.

And he's still coach.

He cannot stop being what he is.


Professional co-dependency:

For Dennis, working for decades in that autoplant made sense. You go to work. You did your job. You made cars. You got your check. You had some beers with your co-workers. And went home, and relaxed until the cycle started the next day. It's not a terribly creative life. But it is a simple life that Dennis was conditioned to appreciate and enjoy. It was the life Dennis made for himself, and the one he was good at. We continue to see cases like Dennis today, where older people are unable to move beyond what they did. What they did defined them -- and it's not like factory workers were holding out for great things they never had time to do. Dennis didn't wait till he retired to write the Great American Novel. His work didn't keep him from some great thing. He was his work, not some poet trying to make ends meet.

He was his work. And his work became him.

Another example of this would be my dad. He has a name, but he's used to over four decades of people calling him "doctor" that he hears that used as his name more frequently than his real name. He spends more time with patients still than his own family. He's another one of these WWII era types who was brought up in one of those "you have to work hard, everyday" homes -- or else the Huns will getcha. Dad still sees a ton of patients every day, and has no real hobbies that he would otherwise occupy his time with. (Well, except faxing me during business hours. This is how he sends text messages. He has that Jerry Sloan level of technological savvy.)

When you are at the top of your game for so long that professional co-dependency can become so strong that it's impossible to get out. The auto industry collapse pushed Dennis out the door. I think we can say that if his old job was still there for him Dennis wouldn't have moved beyond being a plant worker. I think we can also say this for Jerry Sloan. He didn't leave the Jazz because he was done with our franchise. He didn't leave the NBA because he hates the NBA. He did not resign because he was done with being a coach. He left this situation because of a number of factors -- but it was not because he was done with his life's work. He was just done with certain situations which are, how do we say, no longer here. Or not all over . . . after all there's only a few Deron Williams style stars in the NBA. Not all teams are like that.


Jerry Sloan and coaching:

I think it's fair to say that Jerry Sloan probably needs (and enjoys) coaching more than we'll ever accurately know. Dennis was a nice dude to me, but lousy at his non-factory work job. He lived so many years as a line worker, a part of a team, someone who was creating something daily. Being a grounds keeper who was alone all day picking up trash from our tennis court wasn't the job for him. My dad, who should have retired 5 years ago, can't go a day without trying to heal something. He's a busy body when not working, he's made for it. Sloan, I think is a coach through and through. He can't NOT coach. He's good at it. He's done it for so many years. Telling him not to try to help or improve things would be like telling an old sea captain that he has to stay on land.

It's unnatural to make Coach Sloan into civilian Sloan. He doesn't want to be a GM. Or a front office guy. He's not a scout. No radio station could afford to bleep out all the swears live. And he has already sent in his retirement papers as a player to the league office. To be connected to the game he has shed blood for he would still need to be a coach.

Maybe at the NBA level, or maybe the NCAA level (more autonomy? players go, systems stay...), or as a really intimidating high school coach?

IF Jerry needs to coach, there will always be teams that'll take him. It was up to him to leave coaching. And it's up to him to return. And he will when he wants to. And I think he wants to. So it's inevitable.


Why not the Utah Jazz?

Well, two big reasons -- Tyrone Corbin and Kevin O'Connor. It would be a 'dick move' to try to come back to the Jazz as a head coach when we have Ty here. Ty might even be cool with it, bless him, because he's a good soldier. But it's not right to do this. And Sloan knows that -- so as long as one of his disciples is the head guy here, he wouldn't return to the Jazz as the head coach. He may never return here as an assistant either -- but this is not unheard of. (A number of coaches have assistants on their bench who were their head coaches back during their playing days) The reason for this would be Kevin O'Connor who existed as the other pole in those star player squabbles. KOC and Sloan did not always agree on things, which is fine. But when Deron Williams started to talk to KOC and bypassing Sloan this (rightly or wrongly) rubbed Sloan the wrong way. By association KOC is part of the 'bad guy side' in Sloan's black and white / WWII view of the world.

I think the Jazz are out of contention. And that's fine. There's nothing left here for Jerry to prove.


What types of teams would want Jerry?

  • Big Market Teams, who could pay him crazy money -- and have "stars personalities" he'd have to coax into a contender
  • Middle Market Teams on the cusp of being a contender, they may have an All-Star on their team
  • Small Market teams on their way up
  • Small Market teams who are rebuilding
  • Any team in any other league in the sport of basketball

What types of teams would Jerry want?

I think that is the question. He has alluded to not needing to inherit the most obviously successful situations -- instead for him he needs the 'right' fit. Not just the right offer, or right opportunity. And as a HOF coach, it is his right to pick, and not the other way around. I can't speak for Sloan -- but I think it's about the fit, and not about the flash for him. He's not in it to win a title specifically -- but he will coach every game to win the game (no tanking allowed). As a result there are some teams out there that are automatically off the list for him.

Ultimately, it's what Jerry Sloan wants. And right now, I think he may be developing a pretty big itch that can only be scratched by being a head coach again. Right now he's spent 469 days in a row "not" working. That field's been fallow for too long. The old farmer in him knows it's high time to seed that soil and get back to work. Nothing grows without you putting in the effort. As a coach, at the root of that, for Sloan it's all about helping and improving. He is somewhat defined by his role, and has some level of professional co-dependency.

And beyond all of that, he is Coach Sloan. He will coach again, at some level. And we Utah Jazz fans should be ready for it when it happens. (And hey, it may just be at the NCAA or HS level . . . and not as the coach of the Portland Trail Blazers or something abhorrent like that . . . right Paul Allen, he of the toxic contracts?) The Orlando Magic present an interesting case -- well, old people do move down to Florida in their golden years. I think that hinges upon how much autonomy he'd get -- and how strong a backbone the team has against it's player. He wouldn't want to coach a "mickey mouse" organization. We've also heard chatter about the Charlotte Bobcats. We know Sloan respects Michael Jordan. They are both huge competitors. The expectations would be lower there, and I think Sloan would have more pull. They would just really have to try very hard or he will yell a lot at his lotto picks. Adding another strong willed head coach in NC would be interesting though. Sloan was promised the Top coaching job for Team USA after Chuck Daily / Lenny Wilkins -- but it went to Coach K, and Sloan made a fuss to never work for the Team USA pipeline again. Being close to Coach K, and in his domain, maybe a factor for Sloan. Or maybe he moved beyond that and wants to no longer hold a grudge. You know, because that's what Jerry Sloan is all about.

God I miss his toughness. He's a damn fine coach. And he deserves to be a coach again. The world probably makes more sense for him when he's got that whole cycle to work around (be it a farmers cycle, or a daily cycle that Dennis needed to live by). And as a basketball fan, the world makes more sense for me too when he's a head coach.