And, of course, there was (and forever will be) the aura of Sloan. The man who so many felt connected to, despite never having shaken his massive right hand. To countless folks, he was a father or grandfather or uncle or family friend who knew basketball, who led their favorite team for 82 games a year for 23 straight seasons. He was the man who called for the “High C” over and over. The Jazz had a stunning 20 straight playoff appearances from 1984 to 2003 and made back-to-back NBA Finals in the late 1990s. Out front of what is now Vivint Smart Home Arena, the men who Sloan helped mold are melded in bronze and frozen in time: Karl Malone is about to drop a nifty hook shot. John Stockton is dishing out what seems to be a patented no-look pass that only his teammates would grab hold of.
I didn't get to spend a lot of time playing for Coach Sloan, but coming in as a rookie he had a major impact on my transition to the @NBA. I'm grateful for that. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DYJ4F4CvRw
Kenny Smith (@TheJetOnTNT) thoughts on the late Jerry Sloan: “The one thing is, we didn’t feel like we were ever playing against @utahjazz. We thought we were playing against Jerry Sloan teams, which is a difference. It was a unique style that was so different from every…” pic.twitter.com/NdsVnTZsSV
Rudy Tomjanovich on the late Jerry Sloan: “He was a good guy, no nonsense.What you see is what you get.He coached the way he played. His teams reflected his blue-collar mentality. I felt a little bit of a bond with him.I was there in New Orleans (as a #Rockets ass’t, scouting)..” pic.twitter.com/5oWQ3IOrCn
Coach Rivers had a top-five shooting squad as well. “Dirk at the five,” Rivers said. “I would put Durant at the three. Steph at the point, because that’s what you’d need. I would put Kobe in there because of his ability to drive. Now the whole team changes. At the four I couldn’t even come up with one.” Austin contested that Ray Allen should be on his father’s top-five shooting squad, but Doc believed Kobe’s ability to drive superseded the argument. In addition to Kobe’s driving ability, the elder Rivers believed Kobe’s shooting would improve significantly on a squad of good shooters.