Celebrating Ray Allen as the generally uninteresting Jerry Sloan era ends

NBA-TV has been reporting all day (Thursday) that coach Jerry Sloan and the Utah Jazz have scheduled a press conference for 5 PM (EST) and it is expected that Sloan will resign as Jazz coach after 23 years.

The Jazz have, in fact, accepted the resignations of Sloan and his top assistant, Phil Johnson, ending an era of stability in Utah that went on and on longer than any coaching run in North American “big four” professional sports; it was an era in which nothing terribly exciting or interesting ever really happened for the sports team from Utah.

There was “the shot” drained by Michael Jordan in game six of the 1998 NBA Finals to finish off the Jazz, but even that moment — a moment that belongs to Jordan and the Bulls — seemed less exciting and interesting than it might have been had the Jazz been elsewhere at the time.

It was a shot had been shot before, heard previously around the world against the Jazz in another game six of the NBA Finals, in 1997, with Steve Kerr doing the honors for the Bulls off a routine draw and kick from Jordan.

Yes, Jerry Sloan’s Jazz teams ran steadily like clockwork, played good defense, were consistently good and remarkably efficient — but they were never interesting or great.  Point guard John Stockton and power forward Karl Malone were likewise consistently good, remarkably efficient, an offensive clock ticking off the Stockton-Malone pick-and-roll — but there was nothing dynamic about the duo, and they never achieved greatness.

So the Jerry Sloan era — defined as it was by Jordan even as it failed to push to Jordan to further greatness or a game seven (Patrick Ewing‘s Knicks were the more worthy foils) — is over.  It’s about time, one might say, if only the timing had been better.

Tonight was expected to be a night to celebrate the greatness of Ray Allen, who needs to make just two high arching expressions of basketball beauty from Downtown to become the most prolific three-point shooter in NBA history.  That may happen tonight in Boston when the Celtics meet the Lakers.  It may even happen over the outstretched hand of Kobe Bryant, Allen’s longtime nemesis.

If the basketball gods are watching — and they surely will be — they might marvel at Allen’s longevity as the game’s most dangerous shooter.  They might wonder at the perfection of his shot, or pass a comment or two on Kobe’s competitiveness, reflect on the panicked despair that fell upon the faces of the Celtics last June when they realized they were on the brink of losing game seven.

Reggie Miller, the current career three-point shot record holder, will be on hand in Boston, in the TNT broadcast chair, fittingly, appropriately.  This was to be Ray and Reggie’s night, a night to celebrate the art of shooting a basketball and the poetry of the game’s finest point. It even offered the possibility that two of the game’s great shooting guards might, for a change, take the spotlight from Kobe.

This was not a night to attempt to define the Jerry Sloan era, 23 years in which so many of the things taking place in the NBA were much more interesting than whatever it was that was happening with the team from Utah.

7 thoughts on “Celebrating Ray Allen as the generally uninteresting Jerry Sloan era ends

  1. Kevin

    I won’t knock Sloan as a coach, he got the most out of his players, more than I can say for some of our losers. But his comments were vain when he was a player.

  2. J.D. Mo

    I suppose that’s some consolation, that he realized the teams he couldn’t beat were beating him for many reasons other than Kareem. It was apparently obvious to everybody but Jerry Sloan, who couldn’t beat Nellie’s Bucks either. But did Sloan ever realize how to build a championship supporting cast? I don’t think he ever did.

    The proof is in the record: Sloan stuck with Stockton and Malone for over a decade yet never gave them a supporting cast good enough to win in the watered down and ugly 1990’s. I never felt they were ever very close, or that Stockton and Malone would ever win a title.

    And in the last ten years, can we really say that the Jazz have done a good job challenging Phil Jackson and Kobe’s Lakers? I don’t think so.

    Put these two “I don’t think so’s” together and they lead to that place where, in the Jerry Sloan era, not much of anything interesting ever really happened, but, you know, life went on in the NBA.

  3. Kevin

    I agree about Dandridge, but I was referring to the Jazz supporting casts. Sloan actually praised those Bucks teams later when he was coaching.
    The league sure was watered down during the Bulls’ dynasty, but our Bucks were in a huge drought.

  4. J.D. Mo. Post author

    I suppose this should be developed and extended more, but Sloan was little more than a hack when he played for the Bulls — I’ve never liked that cliche about the Jazz reflecting how Sloan himself was as a player – tough, hardnosed defender, etc. etc. He was a dirty player whose team was, at best, #2.
    The irony is that you could also say that about Karl Malone. The ironies are many with Sloan.

  5. J.D. Mo. Post author

    I’d take Bobby Dandridge over anybody Sloan played with, certainly, and take Nellie’s Marques and Sidney teams over Sloan’s Malone and Stockton pick and roll. Nellie gave us a better show, better ball movement, more creativity, and ultimately, a better game than Jerry Sloan gave the NBA.
    Not to say that Michael Jordan ever deserved anything (which seems stupid to say) but the West might have provided him with better Finals opponents in 1997 and 1998.

  6. Kevin

    Utah was a lot like our Bucks under Nellie. Small market, somewhat passed over by media, always in the playoffs, but no rings. But two straight finals appearances matchs our total in history.
    I remember Jerry with the Bulls saying we were good only because of Kareem. So it was ironic that he had a two man team by that reasoning. I still take our supporting cast over his.

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