Goodbye to a Great Conductor

Yesterday Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan retired. He left the game as the longest-tenured coach in any of the major professional sports. He had an impressive winning record and was known as an old-school coach. He based his program on hard work, loyalty, respect and class. He made his players work hard and look dignified (as much as you can with the insane amount of tattoos some of them have). He had rules. You come on time, you work hard, you tuck in your shirt, and you don't clutter up the game with armbands and headbands and other "stylish" gear.

Some of us appreciated that. For years he had players who responded to that method. They worked hard and were tough. They ran the plays and got the job done. They listened and they learned.

I watched tonight's game with interest. Would it be the same team? Would all the rumors about Deron Williams wanting to run a different kind of offense show us a different kind of team?

I love basketball and I've been a fan of the Utah Jazz for a long, long time. I remember when Jerry Sloan took over for Frank Layden. I remember when Tyrone Corbin was a player on the team. I want Corbin and the Jazz to win. I want them to go to the playoffs and someday I'd like to see them win a title. I hoped it would happen for Sloan. I hoped he'd be named Coach of the Year at some point during his career. I think he deserved it.

In fairness, Corbin has been head coach for just over a day. I don't blame tonight's loss on him. But if tonight was an indication of the direction Deron Williams has been wanting to take the team, I wasn't impressed.

Sure, they got off to a great start. There was a lot of emotion. There was a lot to prove. They had arguably their best first quarter of the season. But they couldn't sustain it. They hardly had any pick and rolls--a Sloan staple. They didn't appear to be running any set plays. They settled for streetball with dozens of outside shots. Everyone knows that you can't settle for only outside shots. The second half we had no inside game. Al Jefferson had only 4 points.

An orchestra doesn't sound good if there's no conductor to keep everyone doing what they're supposed to be doing. A team needs a coach that can conduct the game. If the players aren't listening or don't allow the coach to direct the team, they'll be out of sync and their performance will suffer. Deron Williams and any other player who thinks they know more than the coach should save their vast knowledge for the day when they're the coach. If they earn that opportunity.

I wish Corbin luck and hope that the egos can be set aside so he'll be allowed to coach. He learned from one of the best coaches of all time and if the players will follow his lead, they might very well succeed.


Leslie said...

sloan will be missed for sure.

he sure is a classy person.

Michael Knudsen said...

I'm with you, Karey. I'm a Long-time Jazz fan, and I know that unless Corbin asserts himself and takes charge right away, we'll have a player-run team. I've never known such a team to be successful. We need a strong coach, maybe not exactly like Jerry Sloan, but with many of the same attitudes and disciplines.