COMMENTARY | The Utah Jazz's recent announcement that they were bringing back long-time coach Jerry Sloan in an advisory capacity is welcome news for the team's fans. More than half the team's roster is eligible for free agency this summer, and the Jazz hold three picks in the coming NBA draft. With so many personnel decisions pending, the timing couldn't be better for Utah fans.
Jerry Sloan presided over the golden years of the Jazz franchise. He was with the team for over a quarter of a century before stepping down in 2011 after one of the most successful coaching careers in NBA history. He guided the team to their only two NBA Finals appearances during his tenure as head coach and established the Jazz as a perennial playoff contender.
Although rumors have surfaced about Sloan's possible return to the sidelines for another team since he stepped down, many fans, myself included, hoped he would rejoin the Jazz in some capacity. When we learned that Jerry was attending the NBA combines, these hopes grew. Now it's official -- he's back.
There will be no time for a honeymoon. Utah has three picks in the coming draft, and there seems to be no clear-cut consensus about which players will be available when the Jazz are on the clock for any of their selections. The team has been working a lot of players out over the past few days, and it's difficult to get a read on whom they are seriously considering as prospects.
Free agency will also challenge Sloan and the rest of the organization this summer. Eight of Utah's current players are eligible to test the free agency waters this year, and the Jazz must make some difficult decisions. I think there are prospective free agents available that will upgrade the roster and free up salary cap space. The trick for Sloan and the rest of the Jazz front office will be accomplishing this goal.
With so many difficult decisions facing the team over the next few weeks, it's wonderful news that Utah will have one of the best basketball minds ever helping to make them. The Jazz displayed a penchant for getting excellent value from their draft picks and free agent signings during Sloan's coaching days, though, and it's encouraging that he will have some input into the players the Jazz put on the court this year.
Welcome back, Jerry -- now get to work.
S.B. Jackson is a resident of the Salt Lake City metro area and a lifelong NBA fan, dating back to his devotion to the Cincinnati Royals. Jackson, the author of one novel, several short stories, and an occasional contributor to several newspapers, is currently working on a compilation of short stories.
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- Jerry Sloan