The Jazz on Saturday dismissed as inaccurate speculation from star forward Karl Malone regarding Jerry Sloan's future as coach of the NBA team.
Malone, speaking Friday to Salt Lake television KSTU-CH. 13, said "from what I'm hearing . . . this is going to be coach Sloan's last year."
After speaking with Sloan on his Illinois farm, David Allred, the Jazz's vice president of public relations, confirmed that the coach has no specific plans regarding his tenure with the Jazz.
Sloan, according to Allred, said he is "planning on coaching this team as long as he can." Sloan declined further comment on the matter, Allred added.
Malone made his statement regarding Sloan while addressing his own standing with the team, and while expressing frustration that the Jazz — evidenced by their selection of California high school star DeShawn Stevenson in the first round of Wednesday's NBA draft — seem more concerned about preparing for the future than focusing on the present.
"He looks like a great talent, but unless he's Superman, you don't come into the league and take it by storm," Malone told the TV station. "It takes a year or two."
The two-time NBA MVP also is apparently upset that the Jazz did not consult him regarding the acquisition of Stevenson, a 19-year-old whom Malone obviously does not consider an immediate aid to Utah's so-far unsuccessful pursuit of an NBA title.
"No one called me," Malone said.
Malone also repeated common speculation that guard John Stockton may retire when his current contract expires after next season, and that when Stockton leaves Sloan may be not be far behind. Stockton, however, has never actually said that next season will be his last, and Sloan has always maintained that his run as coach is open-ended.
"I've been involved in the so-called rebuilding process when I got here. I don't want to go through it again, I really don't," Malone, a 15-season vet with the Jazz who has three seasons remaining on a four-year, $66.5-million contract that expires in 2003. "I'm not bitter about it at all. I understand it. But when that situation comes up, you have to look at your options."
Malone has limited options regarding his Jazz days post-Stockton and post-Sloan, whenever those may be: play out his contract; retire and forfeit a portion of the contract's hefty pay; or convince Jazz owner Larry Miller to trade him.
Malone, however, has a no-trade clause in his contract, and Miller, who declined to comment Saturday on the matter, according to Allred, has stated previously that he has no plans whatsoever to trade Malone.
As for Malone's concerns regarding the Jazz's competitiveness, the organization believes present needs must be balanced with preparation for the future. After selecting Stevenson, Kevin O'Connor, the Jazz's vice president of basketball operations, said the team would now turn to trying to improve itself by shopping the free-agent market.
Saturday was the first day this summer that teams were permitted to talk to free agents and their representatives, and O'Connor planned to spend part of the day doing just that. Free agents cannot be signed, however, until Aug. 1, leaving the Jazz a month to figure out if they can re-sign their own high-priority free agents, guards Howard Eisley and Jacque Vaughn, or convince any others to come to Utah.