Flip Saunders watches his Washington Wizards go through a basic shell drill before facing the San Antonio Spurs.
[photo: K. Weidie, TAI - Feb. 12, 2011]
Flip Saunders is currently tied with Doug Moe for 20th on the all-time NBA head coaching wins list with 628, 11 victories away from passing Chuck Daly. Upon resigning from his position with the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan falls third on the list behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens with 1,221 wins; and it doesn’t appear he will be caught by Phil Jackson, fifth all-time with 1,136 wins, as the coach who has led his teams to a record 11 NBA titles is set to retire after this season.
Saunders is now fifth in wins among active coaches, trailing Jackson, George Karl (1,017), Rick Adelman (927) and Gregg Popovich (781). Flip clearly ranks highly in the NBA coaching fraternity. So on Saturday before his team faced the San Antonio Spurs, and the new Dean of NBA head coaches (Popovich is in his 15th season coaching the Spurs), Saunders’ opinion of the sudden resignation of Sloan was a good one to solicit.
“One, you hate to see someone like him step away because he’s meant so much to the game. He’s meant a lot to younger coaches when they come in the league. He’s been very up front with them in trying to help coaches, and always very accessible. As coaches and as teachers, we respect how he taught the game. He believed the game should be played one way, and he wasn’t going to veer away from that. No matter who played for him, there was a certain style they were going to play, and you were going to have to adapt and adjust as far as to his style.
He had a great relationship with Larry Miller and I think when Larry passed away that changed a little bit of everything as far as with Jerry. But he’s going to be missed, hopefully he’ll still find a way to stay around the game every now and then … you know, get off the [John] Deere tractor and come back and see some games and talk to people.”
When asked before facing the Wizards if he thought that anybody in any sport would ever coach one team for 23 years again, Gregg Popovich said, “Obviously all of us would say that would be very, very unlikely. If somebody does it, it’s going to be a long time be a long time from now. What he did is certainly unique.”
Someone reminded Popovich that he was closing in on Sloan’s time with one team.
“What, coach eight more [seasons]…? I’m not trying to do anything,” he quipped. “Going to the game, going to dinner, going to the next game … that’s what I’m doing.”
Popovich was then asked if he could see himself coaching at least the eight more years with San Antonio that it would take to match Sloan.
“Absolutely not. Absolutely not,” he simply responded.
To best note Sloan’s Utah tenure in comparison to other NBA franchises, check out the below graph via SB Nation:
Generally, I met the abrupt resignation of Sloan with a shrug of the shoulders. This is what we call life. If it wasn’t Sloan, it wouldn’t been someone else stepping down for one reason or another after staying in one place forever. It happens. But still, those who’ve done it are certainly worth celebrating. And especially when the very nature of the ordeal was so anti-Jerry Sloan, anti-Utah Jazz, questions should be asked and contemplated at a heightened level.
Many words have been said about Sloan. And they’ll continue … they should continue. So, I’m going to leave you with a couple good reads on the way out…
- “Jerry Sloan steps down as Utah Jazz head coach, and the NBA is lesser for it” – Mike Wise, Washington Post
- “Sad Sad City” – Jeff Lind, Salt City Hoops
- “Reflections On Jerry Sloan: The D.C. Edition” – Rashad Mobley, Truth About It.net