Bulls react to Sloan's departure from Jazz

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Bulls react to Sloan's departure from Jazz

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
2:28 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW ORLEANSWith Thursdays announcement that longtime Jazz coach and former Bulls legend Jerry Sloan stepped down, the Bullswho beat Utah in Sloans final game Wednesdayhad plenty of reaction to the news after Fridays practice.

Its surprising, but I think hes earned the right to do what he chooses to do. He did an unbelievable job for such a long time and he stands for everything thats good about the game, the profession. You cant say enough. To be able to achieve what he did for such a long period of time and to be able to keep it at such a high level is a testament to how great he was as a coach, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau after the Bulls practice Friday afternoon at the New Orleans Hornets practice facility in Westwego, La. It also reflects who he is. He coached a certain way and to me, I think all the great coaches are like that. He had beliefs about the game and thats the way his teams played year in, year out, night in, night out and thats why I also think he was so successful.

Hes an all-time great. He might even be the best and to do it like he did it for that long is incredible, he continued. His teams, they executed, they played hard, they played together, they played smart, they were hard to play against. I thought he got the most out of his team, year in and year out. During the course of the season, theres a lot of stuff that goes on and its all part of it. The things that he taught and he believed in, theyve withstood the test of time.

I was surprised and at the same time, I wish him the best of luck because he had a long career, a very successful career. I felt honored to be able to learn from him and play for him, and being around him during his time in the NBA. We lost a great coach, said Carlos Boozer. Hes just old school. He only asks one thing and thats play hard and play together.
WATCH: Jerry Sloan announces his resignation as head coach of Jazz

Thats what he taught us every day, he went on to say. I dont think anybody saw anything like this coming.

Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, who was drafted by the Jazz and played for them until the middle of last season, was also shocked.

I didnt see it coming. I would have thought he would have coached another five years, just because he was so passionate about the game. He enjoyed coming to work every day and he was such a fixture on the sideline that I couldnt imagine not seeing him over there, said Brewer Its going to be different, but I guess his time has passed and hes ready to move on. Its unfortunate that he went out like that. If hes happy, Im happy for him.

Randy Brown, who competed against Sloans Jazz teams as a playerwinning back-to-back championships over Utah in 1996-97 and 1997-98 with the Bullswas also saddened by the coachs departure.

Im totally shocked. Basketball lost a great person. Great competitor. The thing I remember about Jerry is all his teams played the way he played. They were all aggressive, they were tough, mean and theres always a place for a guy like that. it was a sad, sad day when he shut it down, Brown, a Chicago native, who is now the Bulls special assistant to the general manager, told CSNChicago.com. I just remember him and Norm Van Lier.

I didnt know too much about Jerry at the time, but I just remember he was a tough, tough guy. He and Norm made a great backcourt. That was the first No. 4 Id ever know. I always thought at some point, he would come back and coach the Bulls. Now, to see him leave the game is kind of sad.

WATCH: Up Close & Personal with Ronnie Brewer

Regarding reports that a conflict with Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williamswhether it was the reported halftime confrontation or the coach tiring of management taking Williams side in team mattersSloans former players were skeptical.

I dont know the truth. Its speculation. Im not in the locker room, I wasnt there, so I really dont know how much to read into that, but its basketball. To me, when you have a team, its like a family atmosphere. As everybody knows, families argue, sometimes are dysfunctional and you have disagreements. You have that on every team, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to move on, set your differences apart, look forward and not in the past. If thats true, whats being said, then thats unfortunate that thats the reason that caused him to stop coaching. I think its a little more than that. I know D-Will, hes a good guy. I know the guys in that locker room, theyre good guys and I think they were more shocked and disappointed to see that happen, as well, opined Brewer. Theyre both competitors, they both want to win. You have that combination of two guys, sometimes you have disagreements. You see that on the court all the time. You see competitors that to win so bad, they get into it with their teammates or their coach. Not that theyre bad guys or dysfunctional teammates, theyre just fierce competitors and want to do anything possible to win the game.

Added Boozer: Whatever happened, happened in the locker room.

Im not in the locker room anymore. But Ill tell you this from my years being there, theres not one person. Nobody pushed Jerry out of coaching, he continued. I dont believe that Deron pushed him out. I dont believe that management pushed him out. Thats not what I believe, but Im not there, so I cant confirm or deny any of that. All I know is that when I was there, he ran it. Me not being there, I cant speculate on what happened this season.

Thibodeau concurred: I think its all speculation. With Jerry, theres nothing that he hasnt been through. What he said is him being totally honest. He said it was time to move on and thats what he did. You dont let one disagreementif that happenedI think you look at his entire body of work. For so many years, hes been able to handle everything thats come his way and hes handled it with a lot of dignity and a lot of class, and maybe he just wanted a break.

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He always said he would know when its time and thats what he did. I respect him.

Hired as acting head coach (not the dreaded interim label) to fill in for Sloan is longtime Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin, who also played for the organization and has been considered a candidate for various head-coaching vacancies around the league the past few offseasons.

Hes a great guy. Hes paid his dues and I think its reflective of their organization, too. that organization has stood for all the thingsand I think Jerry helped instill those things, as did Frank Laydenand its been a lot of continuity for a long time. When you look at it, thats also a big part of why theyre so successful. It went from Frank Layden to Jerry, said Thibodeau, who coached Corbin, a former DePaul star, with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hes a great guy, great teacher, great communicator and I think the fact that he played in their system and he worked under Jerry, I think is going to be a great asset for him. It helps if youve worked under a great coach and I think hes going to benefit from that. Hes part of that family, so I think itll be a seamless transition for them.

Chimed in Brewer: If he didnt get the Utah job, it was only a matter of time before he got a coaching job in this league anyway.

His time was coming soon. Im just happy for him. He knows the players, he knows that system, the fans know him and hes well respected, so Im happy to see that thats the person they had to replace Coach Sloan. I know hell do a good job.

While Thibodeau indicated Sloan may be simply taking a break from coaching, Boozer believes the Hall of Famer is done.

Coach, hes the type of man where if he gives you his word, thats it, so if he says hes retired, that means hes not coming back.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

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Isaiah Thomas carries Celtics at critical times to save series against Bulls

Isaiah Thomas carries Celtics at critical times to save series against Bulls

Isaiah Thomas carries Celtics at critical times to save series against Bulls

The Celtics season was unraveling, and their face of the franchise was stumbling down the stretch. The opposing Bulls had used a 40-18 run spanning the second and third quarters to take their first lead. Jimmy Butler was hearing “M-V-P” chants from the crowd of nearly 22,000 and the Celtics looked lost, just as they had at times in Game 1 and 2 losses.

And Isaiah Thomas, the MVP candidate who had carried the Celtics all season, was at the front of the miscues. In just 4 third-quarter minutes he missed two shots, turned the ball over three times and committed his third and fourth personal fouls, the latter occurring on a charge during a 3-on-1 fast break. Knowing he’d need his All-Star point guard down the stretch of what was quickly becoming a tight contest, Brad Stevens subbed out Thomas with the hope that the Celtics could keep close their eight-point lead at the time.

Instead, the Bulls kept their foot on the gas, eyeing a 3-1 series lead behind the driving force of Jimmy Butler. The Bulls’ own All-Star helped manufacture a 12-0 run that put the Bulls, down by as many as 20 late in the second quarter, ahead for the first time, 65-63.

Thomas reentered with the score tied at 63, missing his first shot that set up the Bulls’ go-ahead basket from Robin Lopez. Following that basket, Thomas strung together the most important stretch of basketball this season in a 4-minute span that saved the game, and potentially the season.

The Bulls’ lead was brief, as Thomas twice drove to the basket and connected on layups to put the Celtics ahead. Next he found Al Hoford on a pick-and-roll set that the duo had run to perfection in Game 3. Thomas then took two trips to the free-throw line, burying all four attempts, and capped the quarter with a pair of assists to Kelly Olynyk that pushed the lead to 10. All told, Thomas had a hand in all 16 of the Celtics points scored after the Bulls took their lead.

The Celtics managed to hide Thomas defensively – he finished with just the four fouls – and the Bulls only managed to get within five in the fourth quarter (with Thomas on the bench) before the All Star point guard closed the door to even the series heading back to Boston for Game 5 on Wednesday.

“The game was not going our direction and the worst that could happen is somebody fouls out of a game,” Stevens said. “Isaiah’s a big part of our offense and we needed to feel better about ourselves and we tweaked the defense a little bit there to try to protect him, but we didn’t feel like he could sit right there. Things were not going our way.”

Much of the night belonged to the Celtics, even if the Bulls did manage to erase the 20-point deficit. The Bulls’ defensive strategy in Game 3 to limit Thomas, who was second in the league in scoring, to just 18 points, his second lowest point total of the year. Thomas’ nine assists were crucial in Friday’s win, but the Celtics wanted him attacking the basket.

They set higher pick-and-rolls to allow Thomas room to take Robin Lopez off the dribble, and the Boston again playing a small-ball lineup the floor was spaced enough to allow Thomas to attack the rim; just two of Thomas’ 10 makes came outside the restricted area, and his 13 free-throw attempts were a stark contrast after he tallied zero in Game 3. Thomas was a team-high +17 in the nine-point win. His 33  points were the most he had scored in the series.

“It helps us feel a lot more confident when he’s on the floor because he’s able to make plays, not only for himself but other guys on the team,” Avery Bradley said. “Sometimes we need him getting in the paint, kicking it out, and hitting the next guy because it’s contagious.”

Thomas’ third-quarter stretch was his best, but not the only time he contributed. The 5-foot-9 Thomas scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Celtics pushed their lead to as many as 14 points. He hadded six more in the second quarter as the Bulls deployed three different point guards – Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams and Isaiah Canaan – at him, as well as Jimmy Butler.

Thomas remained focused as the Bulls’ carousel of point guards with Rajon Rondo out continued to to turn.

“I just try to play the same way no matter who’s out there on the floor. I got a job to do and that’s score the basketball, make plays for others on this team and be a leader,” Thomas said, speaking to the media for the first time this postseason. “So it doesn’t really matter what the other team’s doing because I’ve got to do my job and I’ve got to do it at a high level for us to win.”

Thomas went for the kill shot in the fourth quarter and delivered. Two baskets from Game 1 hero Bobby Portis cut the Bulls’ deficit to five, prompting Stevens to sub in Thomas, Bradley and Jae Crowder earlier than he would have liked. No matter. Thomas drove twice to the basket on successive possessions and scored both times, including a three-point play. That pushed the Celtics’ lead back to 10 in just 90 seconds, and the Bulls didn’t get close than eight the rest of the way.

Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg vented frustration with the officials following the game, noting that Thomas becomes an “impossible guard” when he’s allowed to carry the basketball during his dribble. Thomas said he couldn’t remember a time this season when he was called for carrying – in reality he’s been called for it three times, though not since January.

It was a strategic tactic for Hoiberg to deploy, hoping for any chance to slow down Thomas. The Celtics point guard is heating up at the perfect time, and he’s doing so while still trying to find his three-point shot. Once that starts working the Bulls will need to once again adjust on the fly. As for Hoiberg’s comment, Thomas echoed during his postgame availability what he showed earlier on Sunday night.

“That,” he said with a smile, “is not the reason why I’m an impossible cover.”