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News » Stockton and Sloan? A Hall of Fame match


Stockton and Sloan? A Hall of Fame match


Stockton and Sloan? A Hall of Fame match With remarkably similar backgrounds and after 19 years together as cornerstones of the Utah Jazz , it's little wonder John Stockton and Jerry Sloan are so much alike.

Tough, competitive and team-oriented.

Those are the words most often used to describe Stockton and Sloan, who were born under the same astrological sign -- Aries -- exactly 20 years and two days apart.

They grew up in nonurban environments -- one in a slow-paced working class neighborhood of Spokane, Wash., and the other on an off-the-main-road farm in southern Illinois.

They attended close-to-home colleges and developed into borderline pro prospects who -- deep down -- knew the only way to assure career success would be unimaginable hard work and bulldog-like determination.

In 1984, Stockton was drafted late in the first round by the Utah Jazz and -- five months later -- Sloan joined the franchise as an assistant coach.

It was a marriage that resulted in glorious successes, crushing defeats and -- on Friday night in Springfield, Mass. -- side-by-side induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I see the similarities," said Greg Miller, the CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group. "Perhaps the biggest is their focus on the objective, and that's winning. ...

"When it's game-time, it's all business -- all about winning. They do whatever it takes to make sure their contribution to the effort is all that it can be."

Phil Johnson coached Sloan in Chicago and, later, became his assistant with the Bulls and the Jazz . He has been Sloan's right-hand man in Utah for the last 25 years.

"There are several things between John and Jerry that are similar," Johnson said. "They both have a tremendous competitive spirit and have always been very much concerned about the team and doing what was best for the team."

Sloan's playing career spanned 11 seasons, all but one in Chicago. Before Michael Jordan arrived on the scene, he was considered the best player in Bulls history, beloved by a sporting community which has always embraced the hard-working underdog.

Stockton, on the other hand, had more tools and used them to become one of the greatest point guards in NBA history.

"John was a tremendously gifted physical talent," Johnson said. "That's probably the biggest difference between them. Jerry was not a great athlete. He was great because of his competitiveness, his will to win and the fact he was big and strong for a guard.

"But John was blessed with tremendous talent -- great speed and great, great hands. You add to those attributes to his willingness to work and it was unbelievable what he was able to achieve."

Former coach and team president Frank Layden agrees.

"John was a lot smoother player," he said. "Jerry was known for physical presence -- defenses, diving for loose balls, his recklessness. But they both had this tremendous will to win."

According to Johnson, Stockton always turned end-of-practice sprints into a competition with his teammates.

He lost once.

"Calbert Cheaney, who was very fast, beat him one day," Johnson said. "But John was sick. Otherwise, he won every one of those races I ever saw -- even the last one, before we went to Sacramento for his final game, at whatever age he was."

Stockton was 41.

Another long-time Jazz assistant, Gordon Chiesa, recalled an incident during the 1992 Western Conference finals against Portland when Stockton exhibited his ferocity and Sloan demonstrated his trust.

"We ran a played called 'fist one,' where our point guard screens the other team's four-man," Chiesa said.

Stockton's job? Set a pick on the Trail Blazers' Buck Williams.

"Buck is a man," Chiesa said. "I mean, he's big and strong and he takes pride in guarding people. So John sets a screen and Buck takes his head off -- I mean, just takes his head off. He looks like a bobblehead."

A foul was called on Williams and a TV timeout sent both teams to their benches.

Said Chiesa: "John comes over, looks Jerry in the eye and yells, 'Don't even think about not calling that play again.' John thinks for a second, looks at Jerry again and says, 'Call it again. Right now.' So Jerry did."

On the Jazz's next possession, Chiesa said, "John sets a screen, stands Buck Williams straight up and Karl Malone gets a [three-point play]. Amazing."

Layden often saw Stockton and Sloan sitting together on team flights, talking Basketball.

"John would walk back and they would discuss the game," Layden said. "They talked about how to get better -- how our team could get better, what we needed to do to improve. To me, that was a wonderful thing."

Neither Stockton nor Sloan ever offered excuses for poor performances or defeat, associates say. They were accountable and demanded it from others.

"I always call Jerry the Harry Truman of pro Basketball because, with him, the buck stops here," Chiesa said. "If the team isn't successful, he says, 'Look at me. I'm the coach.'

"John was the same way. If the team wasn't successful, he said, 'Look at me, I'm the point guard. I'm an extension of the coach.'"

Stockton and Sloan disdained the spotlight, too.

"Jerry is so humble," Chiesa said. "... I always remember him saying that the perfect team picture would be the 13 players and no one else. No coaches, no trainers, no ballboys. Just the players because they are the ones who win games for you. See the mentality?"

Former Jazz center Mark Eaton prospered while playing for Sloan and alongside Stockton during his 11-year career.

"They were both bulldogs on the court, with very similar drive and intensity," Eaton said. "Both are the kind of guys you'd like to have in a foxhole with you."

Like Layden, Eaton saw a unique relationship for Stockton and Sloan that benefited everyone.

"John was able to take what Jerry wanted and translate it onto the court -- more so with actions than anything he might say," Eaton said.

"He just connected with Jerry. He was able to go out and execute without a lot of direction. I think that's what gave John a unique ability to take his game -- and our team -- to a higher level."

luhm@sltrib.com Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame

Location ? Springfield, Mass.

Class of 2009 ? Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Jerry Sloan, John Stockton, Vivian Stringer

Presenters ? David Thompson (Jordan), Larry Brown (Robinson), Charles Barkley (Sloan), Isiah Thomas (Stockton), John Chaney (Stringer).

Friday's schedule

Press conference ? 8 a.m. MDT

Television ? ESPN, NBA-TV

Red Carpet Show, 3:30 p.m. MDT

Television ? NBA-TV

Induction ceremonies ? 4:30 p.m.-7 p.m. MDT

Television ? ESPN and NBA-TV


Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: September 10, 2009

 

 
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