Depending on what the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, and Los Angeles Clippers decide to do with their fluctuating situations over the next few weeks, there could be as many as ten NBA coaching openings to fill during the 2013 offseason. Despite walking away from a potential playoff team in Utah two years ago, a team he’d worked with as an assistant and then head coach for the previous 26 years, former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan has tossed his name into the mix of available candidates to fill one of those job openings.
Unless you’re the Milwaukee Bucks, an available team that is closest to Sloan’s home in rural Illinois. You can take that gig and stick it.
(I think that’s how the song goes.)
NBA.com’s David Aldridge was the first to report Sloan’s indifference, through quotes from Sloan’s agent Keith Glass. Glass, Aldridge relays, also represents former Bucks coach Scott Skiles:
"The bottom line is, Jerry doesn't really feel it's the right fit for him right now," Glass said Thursday.
"He's interested (in coaching again). He's in Chicago now watching the Pre-Draft. And his name keeps popping up with every job, and he hasn't applied for anything. He had a real nice meeting with them. They came to see him on his farm (in downstate Illinois). They had a great meeting just in terms of liking each other. (Bucks general manager) John Hammond said 'I wish I could have stayed and watched the game with him.' It's just not the right fit for Jerry, from Jerry's point of view. That's not a negative thing; that's just the reality."
"Jerry probably is a lot like Scott, in that the working conditions and where the team is (contender-wise) are important," Glass said. "For Jerry to go to a place that's going to take years to build—and I'm not talking about Milwaukee, I'm talking about anywhere—that's just not right for him. They have to be able to compete. Jerry is a competitor, and he wants to compete and teach."
The pedantic in me wants to point out that Sloan can “teach” a 20-win team just as much as he can a squad on the verge of turning into a title contender. And you can compete in Charlotte, Jerry. You may not be able to win in Charlotte, but you can still compete.
With that out of the way, this is a rare bit of on record clarity from a coach’s rep. Jerry Sloan is 71, and this will probably be his last job not because teams will stop courting him, but because he’ll likely walk away from a situation that displeases him, as he did in Utah two years ago.
(Mid-season. Don’t forget that. Out of the ordinary from someone that wants to compete so badly.)
Glass is telling teams that Sloan wants a win-now situation, a setup that wouldn’t see Jerry sticking it out through the rebuilding process. And though the Bucks made the playoffs this year, they don’t even know what direction they’re going in – with potentially Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings, and J.J. Redick all leaving the team this summer, compared with Hammond’s annoying commitment to shooting for 41 wins.
The problem for Jerry is that they aren’t a lot of “win now” teams out there. Which is unfortunate, because we’d love to see his touch on the sideline again.
The Los Angeles Clippers come closest, but they have yet to make a decision on Vinny Del Negro. Free agent star guard Chris Paul is also an unrestricted free agent this summer, but he figures to stay with the team because it could offer him the most money, along with influence with personnel. The Brooklyn Nets are a step down after that – a big step down, after being busted by a beat-up Chicago Bulls team in the first round – and they also feature a player in Deron Williams that drove Sloan from the Jazz two years ago. Beyond that, it’s all rebuilding teams; unless you think Dwight Howard is going to sign with the Atlanta Hawks, and general manager Danny Ferry is going to change his mind.
Wouldn’t it be one of the cooler moves in recent history if Chris Paul, smarting from being unfairly compared to the great-but-not-as-great-as-CP3 Deron Williams for years, pushes for the Clippers to sign Sloan? And before you chortle at the idea of small town Sloan taking to Los Angeles, understand that Jerry used to coach the Chicago Bulls at the height of that city’s yuppie craziness, with a roster stocked with players that weren’t getting as much rest as they should.
Jerry Sloan is a fantastic coach that could put a team over the top if he recognizes certain elements of the modern game (don’t foul so much, and three-pointers are good!) can be adapted into his system. It’s hard to tell, at this early stage, if there’s an acceptable team out there that’s right to reach out for his services.
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Mascots are an important part of the NBA, serving as furry mirth-makers in a league that often becomes too self-serious for its own good. There's no joy a mascot can't bring, whether it involves choreographed dancing or simply forcing fans to consider the ridiculousness of an anthropomorphic blue blob's existence.
However, the fact of the matter is that most mascots are very similar, both in their antics and looks. It's pretty much impossible to differentiate between the bear mascots of the Utah Jazz and Memphis Grizzlies, for instance, and that's even before you see them jumping off trampolines and high-fiving children.
So, when a mascot stands out as something special, you know that it's done some amazing work. Kudos to Benny the Bull of the Chicago Bulls, then, for being listed by Forbes as the most popular mascot in America (via TBJ). From Tom Van Riper:
Benny the Bull, who’s been entertaining fans at Chicago Bulls games for more than four decades, keeps a killer schedule that goes way beyond the Bulls’ 41 home games a season (or more like 50 including the preseason and playoffs). Benny does 250 events a year, from appearances at Chicago businesses and charities to private parties.
The work ethic and the athleticism he displays during game breaks at the United Center have paid off: Benny stands as this year’s most popular sports mascot. That’s the word from The Marketing Arm’s Davie Brown Index, which is based on a survey of public perception of celebrities and their influence on brands. For mascots, the DBI measures popularity by the following criteria: Awareness, likeability, attention-getting, photo-friendliness, interaction and fun. Fans were also asked if a given mascot happened to be his “absolute favorite” or “one of my favorites.”
Benny led the pack in pure likability and gets more photo requests than any other mascot in sports. His ascension to the top is something of an upset, moving against this year’s anti-NBA trend. Perhaps the trampoline-bouncing, slam-dunking hoops mascots are starting to become old hat: past favorites like the Phoenix Suns’ Gorilla, the Denver Nuggets’ mountain lion Rocky and the San Antonio Spurs’ Coyote are nowhere to be found this year. Instead, it’s been an up year for the warm and fuzzy, kid-centered baseball mascots.
For now, let's put aside the fact that Van Riper introduces his story by describing mascots as entities that exist purely to lure children (or "lil' consumers," as I like to call them) back to the arena in the future. We can also avoid discussing Benny's impact on the world stage, where challengers like Arsenal's Gunnersaurus await.
Instead, let's just give credit to Benny for being really, really great at what he does. In truth, he isn't that different from other mascots, but Benny attacks life with a mixture of verve and playfulness we need more of in this world. He expresses the NBA as what it should be — a fun thing that doesn't really make logical sense. Heck, it's arguable that he's the watchable member of this particular Bulls team.
With the Bulls in Miami tonight for what could be their last game of the season, it's possible that we won't see Benny in a basketball context for nearly six months. If that's the case, let's raise our glasses and toast to the friendly creature who adds a small bit of joy to our lives. He may have been created to hook children on a product for life, but he has become so much more.
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The full version of today's interview with Dennis Schroeder.
There's always something funny with some guys shoes at the Combine. Let's look at who cheated the most on their height with their 'custom' shoes.
Shane Larkin tells SLCDunk.com how he fits in the future plans of the Utah Jazz.
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