Chris Andersen is on the left, Jerry Sloan is on the right (Getty Images)
The extent of Jerry Sloan’s outrageousness is the top button on his dress shirt that he refuses to button while coaching NBA games. Sloan’s sideburns may have gotten a little out of hand in the mid-1970s, but we all had our own way of coping with rampant inflation back then, and since then Sloan has remained one of the more dressed-down members of the NBA scene.
This is why it was somewhat surprising to hear a three-year old anecdote from the Deseret News’ Brad Rock (via Pro Basketball Talk), one that saw Sloan defending the look of Chris “Birdman” Andersen when Chris was a member of the Denver Nuggets. The then-Utah Jazz coach did not mind in the slightest that Andersen was covered in tattoos, because the Birdman (who scored ten points, pulled in seven rebounds, and blocked three shots in the win) was playing so damn hard. Here’s Rock:
Sometime during the game, Jazz players had begun mocking Andersen’s body art, which didn’t yet include his famous “Freebird” collar. Upset with his team’s intensity, Jerry Sloan raged along the bench, where he overheard his players’ wisecracks.
“I wish ONE of you guys played as hard as him!” Sloan shouted.
It seems kind of strange that the Jazz would wait until 2010 to start riffing on Andersen’s appearance, as he was a good half-decade into adorning his body with art and his hair with gobs of product well before this particular playoff round. For whatever reason, Sloan’s mini-rant worked, because while the Jazz went on to lose this game they did move on to beat the Nuggets in this first round series, ending the hopes of a Nuggets team that had made it to the Western Conference finals the year before.
These Jazz worked over their coach, though, and this would be the last playoff series the famed coach would ever win with Utah. Sloan quit midway through 2010-11, and the Jazz traded star guard Deron Williams a year later for a parts package that has proven to be far inferior to the one the Nuggets received for Carmelo Anthony, who was traded the same month.
That year spent in Sloan’s good standing was the peak of Andersen’s initial, pre-Miami, comeback attempt -- the one served after he had been suspended from the NBA for using recreational drugs. Andersen was put into an embarrassing mess of an investigation during the 2012 playoffs as law enforcement searched for what they termed “child pornography,” though charges were never filed and no evidence was ever found in what Andersen’s lawyers deemed an extortion attempt by a spurned online acquaintance. The Nuggets waived him over the offseason, and it took until the halfway mark of 2012-13 for a team to even take a flier on the high-flyer that has missed just four shots in 42 attempts this postseason.
Sloan, reportedly, is looking to get back into the game of coaching well-paid young men with various tattoos, and all the visual hallmarks of having way too much money at far too young an age. He’s cool with whatever you bring to the table, though, just as long as you play hard.
And foul a lot, too. Jerry Sloan likes it when you foul a player.
Chris Andersen, NBA Finalist, will take to the court during Game 1 on Thursday night.
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