Thursday, February 10, 2011

So long, Coach.


I'm at a loss of words for what has happened in the last 24 hours.

One of the greatest minds in all of basketball, the raging John Deere inferno, with a whiteboard and dry erase marker on the sideline has stepped down, A man who has four-letter words littering his vocabulary. A man who I have seen smile only twice. A man as cold as stone, yet who had a heart that could take on the world. A man who has been the only coach of the team that I have been cheering on for the last 23 years, or for as long as I have understood the concept of a bouncing rubber ball on a hardwood floor.

A man who took a team to the NBA Finals with a roster of nobody's and has-been's alongside two of the greatest players of all time. You want to try and have a winning team with a lineup of Antoine Carr, Howard Eisley, Greg Foster, Chris Morris, and Adam Keefe? Adam Keefe for crying out loud! I don't think so.

A man who kept showing up for work meanwhile his wife was diagnosed, fought valiantly, and died from her bouts with cancer. This is a man who still came to work the next day after that. You try and check back in to your day job when your companion of 41 years loses her own battles.

A man who helped shape and form the most beloved NBA franchise by its fans. A team that could have been shipped to Kansas City, Charlotte, St. Louis, or half a dozen other bigger markets, yet he helped create the foundation for a team that will never leave the Delta Center. (And yes, that's what I still call it.)

A man who is one of a handful of individuals to have his number retired as a player by one team, and will soon have another jersey hanging from the rafters for another team as a coach. A man who was inducted into the National Basketball Association Hall of Fame in the Fall of 2009.

A man who has the third most coaching victories in the history of the NBA. He may not have won a title, but there is probably not a team in the world who could have beaten the 96-98 Chicago Bulls. Not the '01 Lakers. Not the '86 Celtics. Not the '70 Knicks. Not the 20?? Miami Heat. Nobody. Bad luck it seems. But he still kept pushing.

A man who never won coach of the year. He came close in 2004, but was edged out by then Memphis Grizzlies flavor-of-the-week Hubie Brown, who even said in the opening of his acceptance speech, that he felt there were others more deserving of the award. The Coach of the Year Trophy should be NAMED the Jerry Sloan Award, that's how much he deserves it.

A man who showed up to work every day for the past 23 years. That's right, longer than any other coach in sports. More than Red Auerbach, Scotty Bowman, Jeff Fisher, Bill Walsh, or any other professional coach with the same team. A man right up there with Coach K and John Wooden for being the most perseverant and dedicated to one organization.

A man that will be missed. A man that 20 years from now will be glorified as a legend. A titan. A leader of leaders. One of the best coaches of all time. A man that I will tell stories about to my children as one of the greatest of all time.

We will miss you Jerry.

What do you think?

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