Longest tenured coach in professional sports, calling it quits.
The headline no one thought was possible: "Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan to resign (note: not re-sign)." The only coach the Utah Jazz have known since moving from the Salt Palace, is calling it quits. Jerry Sloan took over for Frank Layden in 1988 and has been a staple in the NBA and the Salt Lake City sports landscape. One Jazzfan reacted, "Sloan retiring?? I feel dizzy...and confused...like an anchor in my life was just taken away."
Of course there is much speculation as to what will happen to the Jazz going forward (it would seem that longtime assistant and former Jazzman, Tyrone Corbin, would be the successor), however before we deal with that, here is a look at the five greatest Utah Jazz moments under Jerry Sloan.
Was this a career changing moment for Sloan: No
Playoff game: No
Playoff implecations: Little
These would seem like reasons to exclude this event, however they are the ONLY reasons this is not higher on this list. Gaines, an un-drafted rookie, had just signed a 10-day contract with the Jazz (his first gig as an NBA player). LeBron James had just hit the game winner to beat the Jazz in a hard fought game in Salt Lake City—not so fast. Rookie Gaines gets the ball on the right elbow and launches an insanely deep three from almost out of bounds, and just over the outstretched hands of Anthony Parker—nothing but net. The electrified crowd went crazy, and although "King" James may one day go down as the best player ever, this undrafted rookie from Georigia, took his throne for one night.
Though Jazz-fans have soured on Derek Fisher, on May 9th 2007, Fisher owned the state of Utah. Fisher missed Game 1 of Utah's second-round series against the Warriors due to his 10-month-old daughter having surgery in New York City, as part of her treatment for retinoblastoma (a rare form of cancer that affects 1 in every 20,000 newborns).
Early on May 9th, Fisher's daughter Tatum was out of a successful surgery and recovering. Fisher jumped on a plane to Salt Lake City and arrived in the waining minutes on the third quarter. Without any warm-up, Coach Sloan inserted Fisher into the line-up to a deafening roar from the crowd, and the rest was nothing short of magic.
Fisher's tenacious defense forced Baron Davis to turn the ball over in the final minute of regulation, forcing an overtime. With the Jazz up 120-117, Deron Williams kicked the ball to Fisher on the wing, and in his first shot in over three days, Fisher hit nothing but net. Fisher's shot sealed the game, and was one of the most electric moments in Jazz history.
Coming off a tough loss to the Chicago Bulls in Utah's first NBA Finals appearance, Sloan and the boys were on a mission in 1997-1998. Utah steamrolled its way to a 62-20 record and secured home-court advantage throughout the 1998 NBA Playoffs. The Jazz had little resistance as it stormed through the Western Playoffs, culminating in a 4-0 series sweep of Shaq, Kobe, and the Lakers in the Conference Finals. However, despite having home-court, and despite being the better rested team (Bulls went to seven games against the Pacers) Michael Jordan's last bit of magic (and a little help from the officials) was enough to end what would be Coach Sloan's best shot at an elusive title.
Stockton was Sloan's extension of himself on the court.
While not a particular moment, the success and career of John Stockton is a direct tribute to the greatness of Coach Jerry Sloan. Stockton played for Sloan for 13 seasons, and was a extension of the coach on the floor.
By the time he was done, Sloan had molded the skinny 16th pick out of Gonzaga, into the player that defined the term "point guard." Stockton's records are among the most unbreakable in sports, his 15,806 assists are 4,452 ahead of second place Jason Kidd, and his 3,265 steals are 751 ahead of second place Michael Jordan.
This is the single greatest moment in Jazz history. It is like the Kennedy Assassination for Jazz-fans in that they all remember, where they were, who they were with, and what it felt like to have the Jazz in the Finals for the first time in history.
With two minutes remaining the Jazz trailed Houston 98-91, then Stockton took over in one of the most dominant stretches by a single player in NBA Playoff history. An assist to Bryon Russell for three on the wing, driving lay-up by Stockton, Stockton steals from Drexler, another Stockton lay-up to tie it at 98, Barkley hits two FTs, Stockton with a floater in the paint to tie again, Jazz get a stop, in-bound with 2.8 seconds, the rest is history. Stockton scored 11 and had one assist in the final two minutes and Coach Sloan delivered the greatest moment in Jazz history!