After talking to Jerry Sloan back in early January for a story about his potential return to the NBA, one thing was clear in my mind about the Hall of Fame coach: He wanted back in.
Sloan, who resigned as Utah coach midway through last season after 23 seasons, hadn't come right out and said that directly. The NBA's third-winningest coach (1,221-803) was still enjoying his time away from the game, whether he and his wife, Tammy, were living on his farm in Illinois or back in his Utah home. But the strong signs that he wanted to coach again were there, and they've all come true in recent weeks as he is officially back in the coaching mix.
The 70-year-old Sloan, who insists his energy has returned to the levels required to do the job his way, discussed his coaching candidacy as well as the NBA playoffs in an interview with SI.com on Thursday. As Sloan indicated, he has spoken with Bobcats owner Michael Jordan about Charlotte's coaching position and will meet with team officials on Friday in Utah for a formal interview.
SI.com: Where do things stand with your coaching future?
Sloan: I'm supposed to talk to Charlotte tomorrow, and beyond that I haven't talked to anybody else.
SI.com: Are you 100 percent interested in that job, or is this a two-way feeling-out process at all?
Sloan: I wouldn't talk to them if I wasn't interested. I wouldn't waste their time. That's not something I'm interested in doing. But I have no idea, and they probably have no idea about me, so I don't know. I guess that's why we're meeting.
SI.com: What about the Orlando situation? It was reported that you had interest there. Have you spoken to the Magic yet?
Sloan: No, that's one thing about this. A lot of this is all speculation, and I don't like to deal with it that way. People call and say, "Well, your name might be mentioned." Well, it might be, but I have nothing to do with that. I don't have someone putting my name out there, and I'm not putting it out there. I guess they throw enough mud on the wall, but some of it fell off.
SI.com: Since we're making the rounds, though, Portland is another team looking for a coach. Does that position interest you?
Sloan: I have no idea. If someone calls me or wants to talk to me, I guess that's the best way to do it. I don't really like to speculate on what's going to happen. It's just a waste of my time, really.
SI.com: What about the itch to come back? How strong is the desire to be running a team again?
Sloan: I haven't been in this situation before -- in a long, long time. I've been out of work, and there are a lot of factors involved in trying to do something with someone. You don't know what [an interested team's] thoughts are. My intensity level? I think I feel better than I've felt in three or four years -- especially three years, because I had my knee replaced three years ago and I had a lot of stiffness and all that. But I get around a lot better now and I move a lot better than I have in three years. I know that. So I feel better. I can walk and do things that I couldn't do before.
SI.com: You spent most of your coaching life going to the arena expecting to win almost every single night. Do you think it would be quite an adjustment to take on a job like Charlotte (which finished with a record-low .106 winning percentage)?
Sloan: You've got to realize that I played on an expansion team in my second year [the 1966-67 Chicago Bulls]. We were supposed to win 10 games. And you deal with a bunch of guys who are willing to work and put in a lot of effort, you never know what can happen. We won 33 games, and I think we were the only expansion team to make the playoffs.
That, to me, was an interesting thing to be involved with. I don't mean to say that [the Bobcats] are an expansion team, but they've struggled some and you never know. Maybe the minds work together and something comes out of it. Maybe they don't. I don't know.
SI.com: But you definitely want back in?
Sloan: After a period of time off, and a chance to get away from it, I think that helped me decide to see what's out there [coaching-wise] and see what's going on. You'd like for it to be a situation where you think you have a chance to work and put something together that's worthwhile. There are other [coaching candidates] who are as anxious and as excited as I am, and they are really good coaches too. I don't think I'm the only person out there.
SI.com: Are you watching these playoffs? That Indiana-Miami series is your kind of style in terms of being pretty rough.
Sloan: Yeah, I watch it. Some of it is kind of nonsense, some of those shots that guys take. If you're going to go after a guy, give him an honest position to be able to come back at you [laughs]. I hate to see somebody take total cheap shots.
SI.com: You think it's gone too far?
Sloan: Well, yeah, I think it's gone too far. The league has always done a great job [in disciplining players], in my opinion. I didn't always agree with them on certain situations, but they've always done the right thing.
SI.com: What did you make of Larry Bird's comment when he called his Pacers "soft"?
Sloan: The fines weren't as great back [in Bird's playing days] as they are now. I mean, how many guys got suspended over a long period of time [before]? But now dollar bills started running through these guys' heads.
SI.com: Is that just Larry trying to wake his guys up and be a motivator?
Sloan: I think he's just trying to teach them that you've got to stand your ground, but you've also got to go by the rules. You're playing with dynamite a little bit. It might go off and blow everybody up. You've got to do the right thing. They don't want any fights. They don't want anybody to get hurt. There's a lot of contact out there. It seems like there's more contact in the playoffs this year than there has been. Guys are going to be on edge a little bit because they haven't had to play that much with that kind of contact in the regular season. So some of them have to adjust to it, step up to the plate and be part of it in a decent manner.