When Jerry Sloan resigned this week, the reaction was almost unanimous across the league: shock. Sloan was an institution, someone who had always been on that sideline, week in and week out, year in and year out, for the Jazz and now, midseason, he was just gone. Just… gone. It created a moment for players to reflect on their experiences with Sloan, for media to share stories of the icy glare giver, and for coaches to consider their own careers in Sloan’s context.
One such coach this week was Rick Adelman. Adelman, who has coached 20 seasons in the NBA, gave his thoughts to the Houston Chronicle:
“It’s a tough business; it’s really tough,” Adelman said of his friend and former teammate’s decision. “When you’ve been doing it long enough, you’re always thinking about what you should do in the future. Anybody that has been doing it for over 30 years and getting up there in age, you think about things.
“There must be something going on. He’s a very strong-minded individual so something happened for him to decide to do this. He doesn’t let a whole lot of people influence what he’s going to do.”
Adelman has a unique perspective on Sloan. The two were teammates in Chicago and have been friends for years. Part of you wonders if Adelman is headed for the same fate as Sloan. A respected coach with a terrific record of success, never able to overcome Phil Jackson who inevitably held 1-3 of the best players in basketball. The fact that Sloan walked away without a ring with Utah is sad, but it will also inevitably be held against him, just as Adelman’s time in Portland, Sacramento, and Houston will be similarly judged. But in reality, it’s really just a question of luck and the forces that usually mean the greatest players play on the coasts. It’s a shame, really.
Sloan’s resignation wasn’t just an opportunity for those in professional basketball to pay homage to Sloan publicly. It was a moment for reflection for those coaches who have slogged through year after year in the grind, without any of the convenient glory.