clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Malone says if Sloan goes, he will, too

Karl Malone, like Michael Jordan, respects his coach and enjoys playing for him. Jordan has said for months that if Phil Jackson isn't the coach of the Chicago Bulls, he'll retire from basketball.

Now Malone is offering a similar threat. Simply put, Malone wants to be playing for Jerry Sloan - and no one else."If Jerry's not there, I'm not there," Malone said Friday afternoon with plenty of national and international press around to hear him say it at the official All-Star media availability session.

Malone, unlike Jordan, is not threatening retirement. He's just stating that if the Jazz don't extend Sloan's contract, he'll leave Utah as a free agent.

Sloan - like Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek - has a contract through the 1998-99 season. The Jazz protocol has been to add a year to the end of Sloan's contract each year, but that hasn't happened yet this time. It may not happen. Talks between Sloan and the Jazz started weeks ago but have recently been cut off.

Malone said that the Jazz management called up Sloan to talk about a contract extension only to call him back later to say that they had changed their minds. So while Sloan is still under contract for the next 1 1/2 years, he doesn't have his customary two-plus year cushion.

"What should my attitude be, as a player who respects his coach?" Malone asked. "It's the same thing that's happening in Chicago. . . . What's happening between Jazz management and coach Sloan is bull(bleep)."

Malone says he can tell "without a doubt" that the contract situation is frustrating to the veteran Jazz coach.

"I know my coach," Malone said. "I read my coach really well. I can tell when he's not the coach I know. I can tell when something is on his mind. . . . He's not going to say that he's distracted, but I can tell that he is."

So are Sloan's days with the Jazz numbered? That isn't clear. The coach, out of town for the All-Star break, was unavailable for comment, and the Jazz brass never like to discuss contract negotiations in public.

A published report in the Chicago Tribune on Thursday suggested that the Bulls should consider Sloan - a former Bulls player and coach - as a permanent replacement for Jackson (with an interim coach next year) in Chicago after his Jazz contract is up.

If that were to happen, Malone just might end his career in a Bulls uniform.

"I'm not ruling out anything," Malone said of his plans for when his Jazz contract ends.

He said that if Sloan ends up coaching another team, "there ain't a doubt in my mind (that I'd follow him). If Jerry winds up somewhere else and he has the same rapport with his players - which I know he'll have because he's not going to change for nobody - there ain't a doubt in my that I would go, too."

Malone went on to say that he doesn't plan to retire in 11/2 years and that there are two teams - other than the Jazz - that he would like to play for if Sloan gets out of the coaching business.

He refused to say which teams, however.

Malone, during the hourlong rap session, spoke on many other topics. He brought up his frustrations with his original accommodations in New York ("the room was so small I could lay on the bed and change the TV channels with my toes") until he left the NBA hotel to get a place at one of Donald Trump's properties.

He was asked his opinion of the young players in the league (he likes Kobe Bryant, Keith Van Horn, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett but dislikes the attitude of most of the others). He was asked to predict whether Jordan would retire (he thinks M.J.'s gone). And he was asked time and time again about being one of the "old guys" in the new-look All-Star Game. He was grilled about other subjects, too.

But he kept returning to voice support for his coach.

"We respect coach Sloan," said Malone of himself and other Jazz veterans such as John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek. "Whenever you respect your coach, you're going to go out on a limb for him."

Whether Sloan wanted Malone on this particular limb or not, the Mailman went out on it in a big way on Friday.