Sloan, Stockton entering Hall of Fame

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Jerry Sloan needed a little coaxing from his children before acknowledging he may be Hall of Fame material. Sloan has the fourth-most coaching wins in NBA history and is reluctant to take credit for any of them. He will push modesty aside on Friday and acknowledge – or at least sit quietly as others say it – that he’s been one of the best coaches in the game for a very long time. Sloan will be enshrined along with one of the players who got him there, former Jazz point guard John Stockton. “You don’t get here without a lot of help from a lot of people,” said Sloan, who is the longest tenured coach in major professional sports. Entering his 22nd season coaching the Jazz, Sloan likes to say his 1,137 victories – including 1,043 with Utah – are as much a product of longevity and having good players as anything he’s done as a coach. Sloan thanks late owner Larry Miller, who died in February, for having the patience during the lean times and not making a coaching change, as so many franchises have done – many more than once – during a tenure that dates back to when Stockton’s signature short-shorts were fashionable. He’s also thankful to his assistant coaches and the dozens of players who have rotated in and out of the Jazz locker room since Sloan took over for Frank Layden in December 1988. Two of his players will always stand out: Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in steals and assists, and Karl Malone, who scored the second-most points in NBA history. Sloan coached the prolific pair for 15 seasons, which included two trips to the NBA finals in 1997 and 1998. “I don’t want to step in John and Karl’s way. They’re the ones that did all the work. They’re the ones that probably helped keep me here, along with Larry Miller,” Sloan said. “I certainly don’t want to take anything away from them by me tagging along. I tagged along for a long time.” Sloan and Stockton will be inducted along with Michael Jordan, whose Chicago Bulls beat the Jazz both times they reached the finals. Stockton and Jordan both retired in 2003 and were sure things for the Class of 2009. Malone played one more season with the Los Angeles Lakers and will be eligible next year. Sloan usually cringes at recognition like the Hall of Fame. He wanted no fanfare for his 1,000th coaching win a few years ago, nor last season when he won his 1,000th game with the Jazz – something no other NBA coach has done with one team. And he had to be talked into this weekend’s festivities. “I talked to my kids and my family. That’s why I changed my mind. They thought I should,” Sloan said. “That was a personal thing. They just said that I should do it.” Sloan chuckled last week that he hoped most of the fans at the ceremony in Springfield, Mass., will be there for the other inductees, who also include David Robinson and Rutgers women’s coach C. Vivian Stringer. Like it or not, he will be honored, starting with a speech from Hall of Famer Charles Barkley – Sloan’s choice to make the introduction. Sloan was an assistant coach on the 1996 Olympic team, which included Barkley, Stockton and Malone. Joining Stockton in this year’s class helped Sloan make the decision. Very few players have fit with Sloan’s work ethic, which he developed growing up on a farm in southern Illinois and in an 11-year NBA playing career. Sloan may not have been the most talented player on the court, but he was always one of the toughest and most determined. Stockton played the same way for 19 years. “John’s just an unusual guy. He loved to play. He loved to compete,” Sloan said. “He wasn’t sitting around feeling sorry for himself. He got up and got ready to go again. I’m sure players that played against him hated to see him have a bad game before he played against them.” Sloan said Stockton and Malone would both be Hall of Famers no matter who coached them. As much as he tries to deflect the credit, Sloan hasn’t had Stockton or Malone on the roster since the 2003 playoffs. Yet the Jazz have continued to win, finishing with a losing record just once under Sloan. “I’ve had tremendous support throughout my career from people that worked hard, played hard and tried to do the right thing,” Sloan said. “I’m just fortunate to have worked here in this organization for as long as I have. I just could never see this happening.”

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