Hall-of-Fame coach Sloan changes tune about returning to sideline
Jerry Sloan is too good, too respected, to start his own coaching campaign.
So as the 69-year-old answers questions about whether he might leave retirement behind and return to the job that he loved for nearly three decades, you get the sense he's resisting the urge to make some formal announcement of his desires.
"I think if the right situation came along, whatever that is," he said before pausing to ponder. "I don't know what the right situation is. We'll have to wait and see, I guess."
He'll be waiting for the phone to ring again at his home in Utah, where he became the NBA's third-most winningest coach of all time (1,221-803) before abruptly stepping down last February. After 23 seasons, the job became too taxing for the longest tenured coach in league history.
So he headed for Illinois, where he and his wife, Tammy, have a farm in Hamilton County and a home in McLeansboro. Sloan has spent his days looking over his land, and the couple auctioned off farm machinery and furniture as a sort of summer project that had been delayed by the rigors of his coaching schedule. But it didn't take long for teams to call, inquiring about his itch to get back on the bench, and sources said the Pacers were among those seriously hoping to land him before they gave Frank Vogel a permanent position.
"Before, I was just visiting with people [from teams], but they knew that I wasn't ready to coach ... back in the summer," said Sloan, who returned to his house in Utah in recent months. "I didn't know if anybody was going to call [after that]. Maybe they won't. I don't know what my reaction would be. I had some people call when they'd lost their coaches. I was honest with them."
But the honest truth has changed since then. And considering energy has played such a significant part in Sloan's decision-making, he's sounding as if a return could be in the cards.
"My energy level has changed a great deal since I quit coaching," said Sloan, who is an avid walker. "It's changed a lot now. I've had time to work out. I feel better.
"I had a chance to relax, to do something that I haven't had the time to do in 30 years. That's rewarding. You have time to spend with the family and have Thanksgiving and things like that. I enjoyed all of that. But [returning to coaching] is a decision where, if somebody talked to me, I'd review the situation like anybody else and take it from there."
When the Kings fired coach Paul Westphal last week, it seemed as though Sacramento would be the right place for Sloan. The Maloof brothers who own the team think very highly of Sloan, and sources said that Tammy hopes her husband returns to coaching and was favorable of the idea of possibly residing in Sacramento.
Within hours of Westphal's firing, however, the team announced that assistant coach Keith Smart would take over. A Kings source said he was given a new deal that's guaranteed through this season with a team option for next season, meaning Sloan could be a candidate for that job and any other where his expertise is needed.
"I live my life day by day like I always have and haven't spent a lot of time worrying about a job," Sloan said. "If somebody called me, I don't know what my answer would be."