Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.
After 23 years, Jerry Sloan walked away from the Utah Jazz. Mid-season.
After 23 years, Sloan intimated that he just didn’t have the energy or the desire anymore, and that he knew “this was the time to move on.”
Translation – Jerry Sloan QUIT.
I don’t care that he coached the same team for 23 years, or that he won 1221 games. I also don’t care about his two Western Conference championships, or the Hall of Famers he’s coached, and I don’t care that he is one of only three coaches in the NBA with at least 15 consecutive winning seasons.
I don’t care about those things because none of them matter now. Why? Because Jerry Sloan is a quitter.
So tell me please, how can he be the greatest coach in sports without a title?
It is not like he left in the off-season, or even at the end of a contract because he was tired and ready for his golden years. There are no health issues that anyone is aware of, and no personal matters to attend to. He just decided at the end of a basketball game in the middle of the season that he was taking his things and going home.
He gave no warning, left his organization with no backup plan, and just walked away.
It may be harsh to call Sloan a quitter, but that’s exactly what I am doing, and I’ll say it again – Jerry Sloan cannot be the greatest head coach across sports without a title. Because he is a quitter.
Optimist Prime is going to portray Sloan as a legendary coach with a legendary tenure in the Jazz organization. But the only REAL accomplishment he ever showed was an ability to not get fired.
Owning the longest coaching tenure in sports with the same team does not make you great. In that “illustrious” tenure, which spanned 26 total seasons… the one that Optimist Prime will be raving about… how many times did he even SNIFF a shot at a championship? Twice, that’s it.
Think about the great AFC coaches of the NFL during the 1980s and 1990s. They were tasked with coaching in an inferior conference, loaded with inferior talent, against an NFC group that was better funded, and better skilled.
No matter how great of these coaches might have been, they simply did not have the weaponry to stack up against teams led by Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, or Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin.
But these were great coaches, and they had more comparative success in their shortened tenures than Sloan did over a much longer career.
Reeves coached for only 23 years, but won his conference four times. Levy managed to win four conference championships in only 17 seasons. Once again, Sloan boasts only two conference championships over a 26 year career.
While Sloan’s regular season W-L record is impressive, his playoff presence left much more to be desired. Over his career, he won only 98 playoff games, compared to 104 losses, for a playoff win percentage of .485 (that’s a losing record). Compare that to Reeves (.550), or Levy (.579).
If Sloan isn’t the greatest coach across sports without a title, is he at least the greatest coach in NBA history without a title? Once more, the answer is “no.”
That claim should belong to Don Nelson, who retired last season after 31 years in the NBA.
Nelson, a three-time NBA coach of the year, has won more games as an NBA coach than anyone else in league history. That puts him ahead of Phil Jackson, Pat Riley, Red Auerbach, and every other “great” to have coached in the league as far as wins go. But for all those victories, Nelson does not have a championship to his credit.
In fact, Jerry Sloan was never even the greatest coach in the league for a single season during his tenure, having never been recognized as Coach of the Year. While guys like Nelson, or even Mike Fratello (also without a championship) have managed to at least garner honors as the top coach within a single season, Sloan falls short of the mark yet again.
Make no mistake, Jerry Sloan had an impressive coaching career. But his legacy, highlighted only by endurance, and marred greatly by the manner in which he left the game, falls far short of the standards set by so many other great coaches out there never fortunate enough to win a championship.
I’m sorry, Mr. Sloan, but this is one more title you have failed to clinch.