August is the dog days of the NBA offseason. With intel slowly leaking out surrounding the Donovan Mitchell trade market, I’ve spent more time looking at the Utah Jazz’s history than the present and future.
Recently, we ran a survey asking which individual was responsible for the Utah Jazz’s success in the late 1990s. Shockingly, Jerry Sloan was the winner and two-time MVP Karl Malone came in third, behind John Stockton.
Make no mistake, Sloan is one of the greatest coaches ever. He has the fourth most wins ever and spent 23 seasons at the helm of the Jazz.
Utah Jazz: Is Jerry Sloan responsible for past success?
Now, in my mind, Sloan is one of the greatest coaches, but the result should come from on-court performance. No one in their right mind would say that either Malone or Stockon is a top-ten player ever, but each are certainly in the top five at their respective positions. Stockton was never a better player than Maone, although he had his share of greatness. It’s weird to me that 4.4% of the voters said Stockton was more important than Malone, given that Malone was the best player for the Jazz in their two Finals appearances.
Maybe I’m undervaluing quality coaching. Sloan was Utah basketball for several years, and he managed to keep two stars and a solid cast of role players happy and competitive for multiple decades. Maybe it’s a well-earned title. Is Phil Jackson responsible for winning with the Bulls and Lakers? Is Popovich more of a winner than Duncan? Maybe it all comes down to the bench. Either way, the Utah Jazz can claim three legends.