As word comes out that Jerry Sloan has resigned as head coach of the Utah Jazz, it's only natural that you begin to put his tenure in Utah into perspective.
After all, in 23 seasons as the Jazz head coach, Sloan amassed 1,221 wins and finished with 21 winning seasons of the 22 he completed.
But, like it or not, sports has success defined by the number of rings and not the number of wins a coach has.
While Sloan has almost 100 more wins as a head coach than Miami Heat president Pat Riley, Riley's six rings are enough to put him on a much higher pedestal than Sloan. So while Sloan is a coaching success, he will not be remembered in the pantheon of great coaches.
While it would be easy to simple classify Sloan's career as “great, but not all-time great,” we must factor in that Sloan coached in the era of Phil Jackson.
Jackson's legacy can be debated in bars and barbershops all over the country, but his results cannot. Eleven championships in 20 seasons as a head coach makes him a winner among all-time coaching winners and one that Sloan was unfortunate enough to have to coach against.
Sloan twice reached the NBA Finals, only to be outdone by the dynasty of the Chicago Bulls and Phil Jackson. In both series, Sloan's Jazz team appeared to be the better team, but in both series they were only to be out-done by the brilliance and the will of Michael Jordan.
Had it not been for Michael, Sloan would have won two rings.
I feel for Sloan the way I feel for Andy Roddick. He is a fine tennis player who should have more Grand Slam titles, but Roddick had the misfortune of playing in the era of Roger Federer.
It wasn't that Roddick wasn't good, or that he didn't work hard. It's that he got swallowed up by the singular force that was Roger.
Sloan is and was a tremendous coach who got swallowed up by Phil Jackson and his endless list of Hall of Fame players. It was beyond his control. His coaching career has been one of the greatest of all-time.
It just won't be remembered that way.