BOSTON – Phil Jackson competed against Jerry Sloan as both a player and a coach, and knew him as someone who’d never quit – and whose teams never would, either.
But Jackson has flirted often with the notion of when is the right time to walk away from coaching, and took Sloan at his word that it was just the “right time.”
“I think sometimes you hope you can pick the right time, and I think you want to close the chapter on it,” Jackson said before the Lakers played the Celtics Thursday night. “And if that was the way it ended for him, I know he felt that you have to live your life by your gut feeling and do it that way. So I think it was great that he was able to do it on his own terms.”
Ray Allen, who used to experience Sloan’s hard-nosed defensive style more frequently in the Western Conference, had the same reaction everyone else did upon hearing the news of Sloan’s resignation Thursday.
“I’m curious why,” Allen said. “I think everyone’s kind of wondering what exactly happened – if he stepped down or they went in another direction. … He’s been a great ambassador for the game.”
Doc Rivers always knew what he was getting when he stepped onto the floor to play against or coach against a team coached by Sloan.
“They were going to play hard,” Rivers said. “They were going to cut. They were going to pick-and-roll you to death. They were going to foul you hard. You had to play defense for 24 seconds. And they were going to milk every possession until they got the shot they wanted.”
Jackson, whose Bulls twice defeated Sloan’s Jazz for NBA titles, said Sloan’s lack of a championship “shouldn’t diminish his career.”
“But really, you hate to see a guy go out without having won a champ with all the great teams he’s had,” Jackson said. “… I think coaching 23 years probably is an energy thing. It takes a lot of energy and there’s a time when you feel like you just can’t put anything more into a team.”