- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Bob Weiss lasted just 31 games before he was fired last week by the Seattle SuperSonics.

Weiss shouldn’t feel bad — it’s just business. Only three NBA coaches have been with their teams longer than three seasons.

This is coaching in the NBA. It’s not a place for those into long-term commitments.

Don’t buy a home. Rent one.

Don’t send your laundry out.

Don’t even order takeout.

That is what makes Jerry Sloan so impressive. Now in his 18th season with the Utah Jazz, Sloan, 63, has a 866-513 record and 15 playoff appearances, including two NBA Finals.

Sloan isn’t just the longest-tenured coach in the NBA. He’s the longest-tenured team leader in professional sports. Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves leads baseball with 16 seasons. Bill Cowher of the Pittsburgh Steelers tops the NFL with 14.

How long is 18 NBA seasons? When Sloan became coach of the Jazz in 1988, nine of the league’s current coaches were still playing in the league. New Jersey Nets coach Lawrence Frank was 18 years old. Phil Jackson had zero NBA titles.

What’s Sloan’s secret? A coach can keep his job for a long time if he does one thing: command the respect of his players.

That’s it. That’s the list.

Winning helps. So does the respect of management. But if players respect a coach, they will play hard for him, and the rest takes care of itself.

If a coach loses that respect and his team quits on him, it’s over. Coaches don’t turn such a situation around. They’re not around long enough to turn it around.

Sloan is a Marine — there is no such thing as a “former” Marine — and he also was one of the toughest players in the league in the 1970s. Even if his players don’t know these things, Sloan knows how to command their respect.

There are other keys to Sloan’s success.

For most of his career, he had John Stockton and Karl Malone, two hard-working players whom he molded in his image.

Sloan hasn’t made the playoffs since he had Stockton and Malone in 2003, but he still commands respect.

Sloan doesn’t let problems linger. He lets players know where they stand. He never had any wishy-washy lineups with players who don’t know their role.

Last season the Jazz started 6-1, but point guard Carlos Arroyo didn’t respect the game or Sloan or something. Whatever it was, Sloan benched Arroyo and didn’t play him for a couple weeks. Before long he was traded to the Detroit Pistons.

That’s how Sloan deals with problems. That’s how he has been dealing with them for 18 seasons.

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