Jerry Sloan Interview
InsideHoops.com met with Utah Jazz coach Jerry Loan in the world's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden, at the tail end of the 2003-04 NBA preseason. While many have low expectations of the no-Malone, no-Stockton Jazz this season, Coach Sloan made it clear that even thinking that way is like already admitting defeat.
InsideHoops.com: The Utah Jazz this year, this a new situation in that, something you haven't had to deal with for quite a while.
Jerry Sloan: Well, it's not new, it's still just basketball, just basketball with different people.
InsideHoops.com: True, but with lowered expectations this year...
Jerry Sloan: Well maybe other people have low expectations, but if you don't have expectations that your guys are going to come play hard every night, and you're going to expect them to do everything they can to try to win, then you're just teaching them how to lose. And our job is to try to teach young players how to play together, how to compliment each other, learn some of the things about the game, and hopefully win some games.
InsideHoops.com: And what have you seen from Andrei Kirilenko, as far as his growth as a player goes?
Jerry Sloan: He's got a lot to learn. He's a young player, he's got a lot to learn. Learn how to play with other people, learn situation basketball, learn the 24-second clock. There's a tremendous number of things he has to understand to be effective, rather than just going with his athletic flow and just ducking his head and trying to overpower people in this league, because there's always a match for you. They'll stop you some way, I don't care who you are.
InsideHoops.com: No matter how strong you are.
Jerry Sloan: Well there's always something you have to be able to adjust to. If you can't adjust then you'll be the same player ten years from now. We hope he's a better player each year, that's our primary objective, is to try to help them become a better player, whatever it takes for us to do, our coaches and all of us are trying to do that with everybody.
InsideHoops.com: Any one thing you stress with Kirilenko more than anything else?
Jerry Sloan: Yeah, learn how to play.
InsideHoops.com: As for Matt Harpring, he was a role player in Philly, came here and emerged, shooting the lights out, anything in particular you've said to him about his job this year?
Jerry Sloan: No, not really, he just has to come and play. He understands the position he plays here most of the time, I think he's getting a better feel for that. Playing without Karl and John, I think he's played extremely well in the games that we've had without those guys. Obviously a lot of people said that he probably wouldn't be able to play without those guys, but he's a basketball player. You learn how to play and make adjustments if you want to get better. Guys that do that, they end up being good players. We think he'll eventually be able to do some of those things and become a better player as time goes on, rather than just being a guy that has to have someone lead him around. He gets a lot of hustle plays, and things that help the team. He did that last year with John and Karl. Of course, they were able to give him a couple of extra passes maybe that helped his average, but he seems to have played very well so far.
InsideHoops.com: And working Harpring and Kirilenko together...
Jerry Sloan: Well both of them play the same position (laughs). We're going to have to try to play - Andrei can play - we've played him around back and forth at the two, three and four, and that's where the problem comes in, that's too much for him to try to absorb right now, and learning how to play in one position. But Matt probably is a little bit farther ahead of him in learning that position, and we're just trying to be as patient as possible, and hopefully he can adjust to the things that come up in the game at whatever positions he's playing.