Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Last Game

I went to see my team, the Utah Jazz, play the Chicago Bulls last night. I don't get to that many games, so I was excited- especially to see my team take on former Jazz players, Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. The Jazz lost, and we left the arena simply thinking the team had lost another game. This afternoon I learned that the team had also lost its coach.

Jerry Sloan, the only man I have known as the coach of the Jazz, stepped down after 23 years with the team today. I am saddened by the sudden departure, and left to think about the fact that I just happened to be there on the night he coached his last game. The Jazz have had difficulties this year, but still had the cornerstones of a strong team- one of them being Coach Sloan. Now, the team must turn to an unproven, but determined coach, and the player and leader that many now blame for Sloan's abrupt exit. New coach Tyrone Corbin and point guard Deron Williams didn't know it was Sloan's last game, and now, ready or not they are the future of the Jazz. Williams and Sloan clashed in their time together, and perhaps there was something about that relationship that nudged Jerry out the door, but like many, I don't think anyone could push Jerry Sloan out, and I know that even if Williams is secretly happy- he couldn't foresee that last night was his coach's last game.

The last game of his career wasn't anything special, just another February NBA game, but it actually was a nice coda to Sloan's career. It was in Salt Lake, with a sellout crowd and against the team that has retired his number. Maybe Jerry was putting us on today when he stepped down, maybe he knew, unlike the rest of us that it would be the end. I doubt it, but whatever the truth behind it is we Jazz fans know that the last game came too soon, and that a coach like Jerry Sloan will not pass this way again.

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