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News » NBA TOM ENLUND Sloan credits his success to teamwork

NBA TOM ENLUND Sloan credits his success to teamwork

NBA  TOM ENLUND  Sloan credits his success to teamwork
Coaches come and go in the cold, hard world of the National Basketball Association.

Some already have been shown the door this season - at Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Toronto, Washington and Philadelphia - and more may follow if a few teams in the lower reaches of the league don't start stringing together victories. Closer to home, one only has to look at the Milwaukee Bucks' recent history to see how frequently teams can change coaches.

But through all the madness, one constant has remained: Jerry Sloan in Utah.

Sloan celebrated his 20th anniversary last week as head coach of the Jazz and in today's "What have you done for me lately?" world of professional sports, being with the same team for that long truly is an incredible feat.

But lost among the high-profile stories of last week - Carmelo Anthony's 33-point quarter, the Kings' upset of the Lakers, the surging Cavaliers, and Shaquille O'Neal discovering the Fountain of Youth in Phoenix when the Bucks were in town - was Sloan's big night, which didn't get much fanfare outside of Salt Lake City.

But that was fine with Sloan, who is as old-school as they come.

"I'm not a one-man show," said Sloan. "I never wanted to be a one-man show when I played. It's a team game and you have to put those kinds of things together in order to have a chance to win. That's all I've ever been about.

"Personally, I've never looked at it like I'm a great coach or anything. I've always been blessed with good players."

Sloan took over from Frank Layden on Dec. 9, 1988 - Utah lost to Dallas at the old Salt Palace that night - and Sloan now stands as the longest-tenured coach in any of the major pro sports. Every team in the NBA has made at least two coaching changes during Sloan's arrival. Jazz forward Carlos Boozer was about to turn 7 years old when Sloan took over the Jazz, and rookie center Kosta Koufos had yet to be born.

Sloan celebrated with a steak dinner with his assistants the night before the game in Minnesota and then enjoyed a last-second victory over the Timberwolves. It was Sloan's 1,009th career victory. Interestingly, Minnesota was led by interim coach Kevin McHale, who had taken over for the fired Randy Wittman the day before.

McHale said several of the Jazz's plays were the same as they were 20 years ago.

"It's the way Basketball should be played," said McHale. "They have sets, but they're not married to the sets. There's movement and they're reading the defense all the time. It's really a credit to him that he can get those guys to play that system that well for year after year after year after year."

Sloan's milestone was announced at the Target Center before the game and Sloan waved to the crowd. He even allowed himself a moment of nostalgia.

"I look back on it a little bit," he said. "That's 20 years ago. You wonder where you were headed then and I'm still wondering the same thing. So nothing's really changed."

No more, no less

After scoring a record 33 points in the third quarter against Minnesota, Denver's Anthony had 42 for the game and needed to tack on eight more to set a new career high and achieve the first 50-point game of his career. But Anthony made 1 of 5 shots in the fourth and scored three points. He made 12 of 15 shots in the third, including 4 of 5 from three-point range.

"I can't explain it," said Anthony, who entered the game shooting 40.9%. "The same shots that I'd been taking the whole beginning of the season were going in."

Reacting to whistles

The Detroit Pistons always have been known for their mental toughness, but that has come into question this season. In last week's loss to Washington, the Pistons became preoccupied with the referees after technical fouls were called on Rasheed Wallace in the second quarter and Rip Hamilton in the third. The Wizards went on a 15-2 run in the third and went on to win.

"I just don't like the fact that right now, if things aren't going good, we give in," said Detroit coach Michael Curry. "We lose our cool and composure. We can't be a team like that. We have to be mentally tough."

Must-see TV

An hour or so before last week's game against the Bucks, there was not a single Lakers player in the locker room where a film of Milwaukee's recent game against Chicago was being shown. The Lakers were all in the adjacent players' lounge watching the live Boston-Indiana game. Trevor Ariza literally ran to his locker to get something and then back into the lounge, not wanting to miss any of the Celtics game.

Boston's game was also on in the training room, where Derek Fisher, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom were camped out. When there was a questionable referees' ruling that went in favor of Boston, profanities were heard.

How obsessed are the Lakers with the Celtics? Sasha Vujacic has refused to wear anything green since the Lakers lost to Boston in last season's Finals and criticizes anyone who does.

The bus drivers

The Cleveland Cavaliers credit their strong team chemistry to "The Committee" - four players (Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Ben Wallace, Mo Williams, LeBron James) who were appointed by coach Mike Brown to police the team behind the scenes and hold one another accountable.

"You have to have guys who can not only go out there and play," said James, "but control what's going on off the court in the locker room and on the bus."

An honors class

Never in league history have the top three scorers come from the same draft class, but it could happen this season with Dwyane Wade, James and Chris Bosh, who were drafted in 2003.

"That would be pretty cool," said Bosh. "It would really add to that '03 thing that everybody has been talking about. We're all doing big things together."

Not playing James

Early last week, New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott met with guard Mike James to discuss James' diminished role. By the time the meeting ended, it was determined that a trade had to be made, since James didn't think he was receiving a fair chance to play. James was shipped off to Washington for guard Antonio Daniels, and the Wizards also received guard Javaris Crittenton from Memphis in the three-team deal.

The Wizards quickly squelched any notion that receiving two point guards in the deal meant that Gilbert Arenas had suffered a setback in his return from knee surgery.

"Everything's cool," said Arenas, who added that with the addition of the newcomers he could play some shooting guard when he returned.

Invisible friends

Phoenix guard Steve Nash admitted to being flat emotionally in last week's loss to the Lakers after two of his best friends on the team, Boris Diaw and Raja Bell, had been traded earlier in the day to Charlotte. Bell had left for the airport in Los Angeles without contacting Nash because he didn't want to wake Nash from his pre-game nap.

"It's hard," said Nash, who made 2 of 12 shots against the Lakers. "I have a hard time committing to this as a business. I take this personally and I take my career home with me. I care about my teammates. When you lose two of your best friends on the team suddenly, it's hard. We're not only recreating chemistry. We're changing our style a little bit. That's been difficult. There's been a few moving parts."

Fast breaks

* Wittman wasn't surprised to be fired after blowout losses to the New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers: "You don't need Einstein to figure that out."

* Alonzo Mourning continues to work out, but it will be three or four weeks before he decides if he will return to the Heat.

* Charlotte coach Larry Brown after the trade with Phoenix: "We still have too many guys" who are wing shooters.


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Added: December 14, 2008


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