It is 19 years ago this month that my dad passed away (on the 6th). He definitely wasn't as in to sports as I am now, but he would occasionally watch a Jazz game with me when I was young. The game I remember most was the Jazz vs. Bulls triple-overtime game. By the end of the third overtime Pippen had fouled out and Jordan got ejected. It was a thriller.
The game was on February 3rd, 1992. My dad died 3 days later. I always have this memory in my mind of him coming home from work and coming in the door at 6:30. I would be on the couch usually watching "Cheers" reruns when he walked in. My memory is that I would always half-heartedly glance over with a "hey dad" and turn back to my show. Why put any importance on his arrival? He comes home every day. . .
Last night I had setup a recording of the Jazz-Bulls game (ironic it's the Bulls again) because I wanted to see how Carlos Boozer played in his return to Salt Lake City. I saw the first quarter or so and thought, "I don't need to record the rest I probably won't come back and watch it anyway. Just another game." And I left to go play basketball with my friends like I always do on Wednesday nights.
It's funny to think back how you would react differently if you knew something big was going to happen. If I had known it was going to be Jerry Sloan's last game, I would have bailed on ball with my friends and watched every last second. I'm sure most of Utah feels the same. Maybe it's better to have just a quick, cut-it-off ending instead of some type of retirement tour.
I can't pinpoint the time when I became so emotionally invested in the Jazz, but I know it's been a long time. Watching a game, I still feel like I'm 11 years old watching it on Channel 13 KSTU, before even the days of KJZZ or FSN. I loved hearing Hot Rod call the games and of course watching Stockton and Malone. Through it all, Jerry Sloan has been the coach. I was seven years old when he started coaching. I remember at the end of '88 when Reagan's term was ending and my dad commented to me how he was the only President I had ever known. Well, here I am much later in life and Jerry Sloan is the only coach I've ever known, at least as far as my basketball memory takes me.
The first game I ever went to was against the 76ers at the Salt Palace. I don't remember the year but it had to be after Sloan was already the coach. I do remember seeing Barkley and his bald head. The Jazz won, and for some reason I remember the 76ers coach got ejected in the second half. That was just another game in the books then, but I still remember it today.
I've actually had the Jazz season of my life so far as far as attending games is concerned. I've been to seven games already this year with an 8th scheduled (so far), including both the Rockets and Thunder games last week (both losses, unfortunately). But somehow I got to see 2 of Sloan's final 3 games at home. Interesting that they were all losses, but that's just been the trend this season; losing at home for whatever reason.
I wish it could have gone on forever; just one of those things that is a big part of your life, but not something that is consciously on your mind because it's so routine.
During a news clip today they showed highlights from the early '90s. We've had some great teams over the years. Some of the highlights were showing Stockton making some absolutely ridiculous passes to Malone. Just watching the 30-seconds of highlights was a reminder as to how great those players were. The 2007 series over the Rockets, Game 7 in Houston, was also an incredible run. I'll never forget Andrei Kirilenko's ill-advised 3 pointer to tie the game 88-all. My friends and I are all screaming, "No, no, no!!!!! YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
It's funny how things work out. I've discussed future coaching candidates with friends for the past two years at least, always with the assumption that Sloan's departure was so far off that anybody we discussed wouldn't even be an option by the time the real decision came down. My favorite candidate was always Tyrone Corbin. Knows the Jazz: played for us, coached with us, part of the family so to speak. I can't help but wonder if part of Sloan's move was to help ensure Corbin was named the new head coach. While the details of why he really left today so suddenly are cloudy, if part of it was to segway Corbin into the new job, it was just one last sly coaching move from Sloan.
Thanks for 23 years. I love the Jazz!