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Jazz upset with NBA action

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The Jazz are not happy with the NBA for a variety of reasons, all stemming from the league's decision Wednesday to suspend head coach Jerry Sloan seven games for shoving referee Courtney Kirkland during a game at Sacramento Tuesday night.

On Thursday, Jazz basketball operations vice president Kevin O'Connor issued a statement for the franchise that echoes comments made Wednesday by Utah players and assistant coach Phil Johnson.

"Excessive. That's the word I would use," O'Connor said of the length of Sloan's suspension. "I mean, I can go around and talk 18 different ways about it, but that's just what we felt as an organization."

O'Connor also did not seem satisfied with comments made Wednesday by NBA basketball operations vice president Stu Jackson suggesting Kirkland's mechanism for addressing Sloan's complaint about an out-of-bounds call was proper: "I'd just like more of an explanation from them, from the referee. . . . From what everybody tells me, he did not go over to 'explain the call.' "

Sloan maintains Kirkland told him he was not going to put up with him, provoking the shove.

Sloan also criticized the league for suspending him but leaving it up to the Jazz to decide if he would be fined or if his pay would be withheld during the suspension period. "If the league's big enough to knock me out for seven games, they ought to be big enough to fine me for seven games. That's just the way I feel," he said. "I don't think it should be put back on (owner) Larry Miller's shoulders to say, 'OK, we've got a bad guy here.' "

As it turns out, Sloan won't lose any of his approximate $4 million annual salary. O'Connor said Miller feels strongly that Sloan should be neither fined nor have his pay withheld.

KEEP IT: While the Jazz would like Kirkland to have to answer for himself, Sloan doesn't think he should have any pay docked, either.

"I don't want to see a guy lose his paycheck," he said.

The league does seem to back Kirkland, though Jackson would not disclose if the official was punished for his actions.

HISTORY LESSON: Sloan and the Jazz seem quite comfortable with the team in Johnson's hands.

Said Sloan, who will continue to attend practices: "I don't think they could have a better person."

Added O'Connor: "I'd like to think we have a veteran team, we've got veteran leadership and we'd be able to go forward with what we've done up until now."

Johnson has ample head-coaching experience, running the Kansas City Kings in the mid-1970s and the Sacramento Kings in the mid-'80s.

UNDERSTANDABLE: Even after acknowledging what Sloan did was wrong, O'Connor sees no reason to chastise the coach for his sideline demeanor.

"I think we all get overzealous," he said. "I can throw a pillow at the TV about a call when I'm watching a road game. That's just who we are."

NBA NEVER WRONG: After Sloan was punished and Portland's Rasheed Wallace suspended for recently threatening a referee after a game, Trail Blazers guard Bonzi Wells knows better than to question NBA hierarchy.

"I don't even want to speak on it, man — because it costs too much," Wells said. "(Sloan) got seven games — they made the right decision. Rasheed got seven games — they made the right decision. If you say anything negative — I'm gonna get seven games."

AND FINALLY: Most Jazz players seem supportive of Sloan.

On Thursday, an off-day with no practice, Jazz star Karl Malone stopped by the team's practice facility to personally offer the longtime coach his support.

And veteran guard John Stockton doesn't feel Sloan will be forgotten while sitting out until a Feb. 14 game vs. Washington.

"Whether he's here or not, he's still in the locker room," Stockton said. "He's a powerful guy with a powerful spirit."

E-MAIL: tbuckley@desnews.com