Sloan battles health issues: There are few players or coaches in NBA history as rough-and-tumble and no-nonsense as Jerry Sloan. That was always Sloan's rep, and it was a badge of honor well-earned.
As most readers are no doubt already aware, it was announced earlier this week that Sloan has been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. The prognosis is fairly grim and Sloan has the battle of a lifetime ahead of him.
In revealing his condition, Sloan was about as straight-forward as he was answering reporters' questions during his 23 years as coach of the Utah Jazz. Declaring that he wasn't searching for any sympathy, the Hall-of-Famer said some of his symptoms were becoming noticeable enough that he figured an explanation was warranted. This is pure Sloan, by the way, managing a situation on his own terms.
I had the opportunity to cover the Jazz for more than eight years during the 1990s -- the height of the John Stockton-Karl Malone years. As such, I relish the memories of seeing just how Sloan reacted to both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.
Sloan actually seemed harder on his team following a huge win than he did after a heart-breaking loss. If the Jazz were on a roll and crushed a big opponent in what should have been a close contest, Sloan would most likely be found grousing about things the Jazz could have done better.
When the Jazz lost Game 7 of the 1996 Western Conference Finals on the road at Seattle -- right after the Jazz had their first potential trip to the NBA Finals snuffed out in a close contest -- Sloan was anything but despondent. I recall him saying something like, "I'm not going to jump off a damn building or anything" -- while also noting it was situations like this that made him love coaching because he couldn't wait to see how his players reacted and what they'd learned from this loss when they returned to the court the following season.
Perhaps my favorite Sloan moment occurred following the opening-day practice at the team's training camp in Boise in 1997. Just three to four months after the team's first Finals loss to the Bulls, Malone, at this time the only player remaining in the gym, was holding court with the press and going on quite an extended tirade over some perceived slight. Sloan stepped off the team bus and snarled for his star to get on.
Without even the slightest hesitation, Malone -- his devotion to Sloan absolute -- stopped mid-rant, excused himself and dutifully headed for the bus.
Sloan commanded respect then -- and he still owns my respect today. Best wishes, Jerry!
-- Doug Fox