Snow Flurries In Hell - Farewell To A Legend
February 12, 2011 –
Clearly I haven’t posted anything for a while. This is due to a combination of factors involving work, travel, family responsibilities, and our DVR crashing. Add to that the fact that the Jazz have been virtually unwatchable lately (even with my NBA League Pass working again), and you get a big gap between articles.
Then Thursday happened. It’s not every day I pull up ESPN.com and get my world rocked. Despite the fact that I was alone at my desk, I felt the urge to look around for the candid cameras, thinking I was being Punked.
This has to be some kind of cruel joke. Jerry Sloan quitting? In the middle of the season, no less? Right up until the actual press conference when he said he was through, I kept expecting something to change his mind.
But obviously it never did. And just like that, the only coach the Jazz have known for the last 23 years walked away from the game, leaving the rest of us wondering what just happened. February 10, 2011 – a date which will live in infamy.
Jerry Sloan epitomized everything I loved about the Jazz: no nonsense, no ego, no fanfare, no self-glorification, no excuses. Just basketball the way it should be played. Five players working together within a system to become greater than the sum of their individual parts – when they actually buy in.
Somehow, somewhere, this recent group of players had gotten away from that. I’m not going to completely throw Deron Williams under the bus because I don’t know what happened behind closed doors. He gets the benefit of the doubt until the evidence proves otherwise. That said, it’s tough to believe he isn’t at least part of the problem. I’ve been a huge fan of his, but the pedestal might be cracking. He seems different this season, and not in a good way. I’ve always detested the notion of superstar players with entitlement attitudes upstaging coaches. If it does turn out that Deron drove Sloan away, that will be tough to forgive.
The optimist in me wants to think the Jazz will somehow be better off now. Sloan was at times stubborn to a fault, and I’ve wondered on numerous occasions if he had failed to adapt well enough to the modern game. Maybe a change is exactly what this team needs. I like Ty Corbin, and I’m excited that Jeff Hornacek will be an assistant as well. I hope Corbin will maintain the same culture of discipline and team play that Sloan employed, but perhaps with a little more flexibility. If he does, this might actually benefit the team in the long run. Perhaps Williams and Sloan simply had an honest personality clash, and Deron will thrive under Corbin. Maybe it really was just Jerry’s time to hang it up.
That’s what the optimist in me wants to think. In reality, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. Something just feels wrong about this. What is happening to this team? This organization? Will they continue to be the Jazz that I’ve followed so loyally for nearly 25 years, primarily because they stood in stark contrast to the rest of the NBA and its me-first culture? Larry Miller, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, and Karl Malone were the Jazz. When the latter two retired, Miller and Sloan soldiered on, and the Jazz remained. When Larry passed away things started to feel a little different; but with Sloan on the bench, it was still the Jazz. You knew he was in charge.
But what now? The team is at a major crossroads, and I feel I’m in a similar position as a fan. It was a strange feeling watching the game last night. Thought I was cheering for the team to the end, in a way I was almost glad to see them lose. It just wouldn’t have felt right to win that first one without Jerry.