Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Coach; under pressure

people familiar with my lazy, intarw3bs-friendly low-caps typing may note that the title of today's entry is actually capitalized. i do that generally when i'm quoting or trying to make a point about the importance of a particular proper noun. like, andrei loves The Filet O' Fish (there's only one), or how george the president/war monkey was really more of a marionette for The Man (thanks pat bagley).

jerry sloan is, for those of us in/from utah, not just a coach. he's The Coach. because he's so simplistic yet sage; hard-nosed yet honorable; obvious yet ominous (these examples are alliterative yet algoddamn stupid). while deron's role as on-the-floor coach is increasing (and, as last night's post-game shows, his willingness to bask in this role is getting moderately narcissistic), jerry's role is simple: coach the team, expect hard work and wins.

turns out, he's coaching us, too. don't believe me? think of some of the things sloan has talked about recently:
  • on boozer: sloan pointed out several times early this season that fans should get over it because there's nothing we can do now except wait for this team to gel. anybody noticed any talk on the uj360 boards about boozer that haven't effectively ended with "it doesn't matter that boozer's gone, we're doing fine anyway"?
  • on The Dick-cision: sloan said in his day, guys wouldn't abandon their team for money, but now the money is a lot bigger and he doesn't know how he'd handle being in the lyin' king's shoes. as much as i think lebron's summer me-first party was a joke, the dude has been annointed as the future of the nba since he was 18. i thought, when i was 18, that by the time i was almost 28 (i.e., now), i'd either have a mountain bike world championship or three gold records. suppose everybody else told me i'd have those things also along the way. don't think i'd be jumping at every chance to make my world-domination dreams come true? don't think you would have done the same? don't think sloan knows exactly what he's talking about? he's not george costanza's old man sending back soup at a deli.
  • on derek fisher: every time somebody asks him about fans booing fisher, he says he doesn't get it. he gets it. but he knows (a) for all of our perceived justifications, it's still classless - not that "classless" and "i'm moving to new york to help my daughter oh wait i'm resigning FURTHER from new york" are mutually exclusive; and (b) it just pisses kobe off and that don't help nobody.
  • on the jazz when they play half-heart ball: nearly always the same two part answer - players get paid to play 48 minutes, and the fans expect effort. see, he's calling out his whole team publicly (singling out players in an interview is less effective, which is why he usually lists four guys in a row that need work), and he's calling out his fan base to demand more effort in the future. remember the handful of games last season at ESA that ended in boos (not "Booze;" maybe booze for some) as the jazz headed towards the locker room? think they would have been as loud if we didn't have a coach effectively telling the fans every other day for 20 years that they are entitled to wins at home?
sloan is nobody's fool. either the trib or the DN ran an article a few weeks back (i'd find the link but i'm behind on my patent law studying), polling all of the players and coaching staff about their thoughts on sloan and his system. nearly everybody said that sloan is much more personable and (gasp) friendly than his media persona suggests. what this suggests to me (notice how i turned the word "suggsets" there? it's called looping) is that sloan knows the nba, he knows the western conference, he knows his organization, he knows his players, he knows the refs, and he knows the fans. he knows that the indiana farmer sloan can speak to the media and say "we've got to execute more" or "we need to attack if we want rebounds" or "our defense looked a little stagnant" if he wants the crowd to respond at 110 decibels when the white-jersey jazz execute, clean the glass, and frustrate opponents' shots. everybody cheers when ronnie price sprints the length of the floor for a come-from-behind block a particularly overrated lakers forward who's only in the league because of his last name. but people aren't necessarily going to blow the roof off the House that Larry Built after two consecutive defensive stops - unless, maybe, the crowed has been primed for exactly that after a week of sloan hammering the point into a KFAN microphone.

next time you watch jerry's comments from shootaround or see him getting interviewed before he calls it a night (before that awful "nba league pass goodnight" screen robs you of Big T's insightful postgame), listen carefully to what he says and remember it the next night the jazz play at home. you might find Jerry's Kids playing a little harder in the paint or setting tougher screens, and the fans, including you, appreciating it a little bit more.


oh david bowie and queen, who knew that when you got together you'd create a masterpiece larger than all of you put together could seem capable of. "under pressure" has universal appeal; it's been covered by dozens, featured in one of the best skateboard video segments of all time, sampled by vanilla ice, and generally inspired millions.

"under pressure" also is a fitting description for the jazz as they travel to dallas today in an attempt that can best be summarized as "redemption." last week's loss to Big D was embarrassing. it was worse than embarrassing. the jazz were supposed to deliver one of the best early-season games, seeing as how the matchup was between the hottest two teams in the nba who, if the western conference standings stay static until april (they will not), are likely to meet in the post season. but they jazz flailed. they flubbed. they barely showed up for the fourth quarter, and felt like passing to the first row rather than each other. think the jazz don't have vengeance on their minds? i'd wager everybody on the team had a bag of chips for their shoulders on last night's flight to texas, and i'm not talking 'bout nacho cheesier.

the problem is everybody knows it, including that dirk nahootski guy (apparently he's from poland now?) and the rest of a team sloan described as actually two great teams in their starters and their bench. the jazz have a great team and one great bench player (CJ) along with several medicre and a few not good bench players. last year, we played in dallas twice, winning one of those matchups. our bench had 45 - FORTY FIVE - points in that game, including almost-double-doubles by AK and paul. more generally, boozer put up 17, memo put in 15, ronnie brewer had 19, wes matthews added 10, and korver poured in 17 points in fifteen minutes. not to mention we won every quarter (26-18, 24-22, 33-22) except the fourth.

last night's bench had 30, 26 of which came from CJ.

i hope the Big Tulip, watson, and RP ate their wheaties this morning; we're going to need more than just CJ.

yet hope remains, at least in terms of opportunity and who is likely to get more up for tonight's game. i mentioned last week that the jazz have it pretty easy for the next couple of months, generally speaking. after tonight, utah has 46 games to play before they have to play three games in a row against teams currently about .500 (OKC-new orleans-dallas late in march). but given our so-so home performance so far this season, this is the jazz's chance to break open the easiest half-season they've faced in recent memory with a huge win on the road against arguably the best team in the NBA. i'm guessing the players know that, and i'm hoping they can use that anticipation to their advantage.

dallas is on game three of a 6-game homestand, and should be feeling pretty complacent tonight after spanking my neighbors (the nets) last night and having a ho-hum contest against starting-to-streak-but-still-9-and-13 milwaukee on monday. the jazz like to get up for big games on the road, and this is the best time to do it.

doo-da-doo-dada-doo-doo snapclap.

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