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No coaching plans for Stockton

But he doesn't rule it out, after his children grow up

SPOKANE, Wash. — Standing Sunday morning on the very same Salt Palace floor that long ago served as the Jazz's homecourt, John Stockton addressed coach Jerry Sloan's club with the wood-plank wisdom of a retiree who is merely the NBA's all-time leader in steals and assists.

There is no need, however, to create space on Sloan's bench — or any other in the league, for that matter — for the man who toiled all 19 years of his professional career in Utah.

At least not now.

"That's a long ways ahead," Stockton said of the possibility that some day, perhaps when his half-dozen kids are all grown and gone, he may actually yearn to coach in the pay-for-play league of NBA millionaires.

"I'll worry about that," he adds, "when, or if, the time ever comes."

So many others like him, though, crave the opportunity.

Larry Bird and Isiah Thomas, two other superstars of the game, gave it a shot.

A multitude of former teammates are in the business, looking for the break that some day will result in one of 30 coveted chief bench-boss jobs: Jeff Malone and Mike Brown coach in the NBDL, Rusty LaRue just took a college post, Adrian Dantley and Tyrone Corbin are NBA assistants, just to name a few.

Heck, even one of Stockton's best buddies during his days with the Jazz — Jeff Hornacek, now a shooting consultant for the Phoenix Suns — evidently has the itch.

But not Stockton.

At least not yet.

"At this time," Stockton said Sunday, "I sure don't feel that same urge.

"But who knows what time will do? Who knows?"

The thing is, it does seem to be in his blood.

"I enjoy coaching," said Stockton, who watched the Jazz open their 2004-05 preseason against Seattle on Sunday night at Spokane Arena. "Most definitely."

It's just that kids control his clock these days, not babies who get paid to play like a child.

At The Warehouse, a massive multi-sport complex Stockton built in his hometown here, the man who once ran up and down that old Salt Palace floor now helps to coach teams of children on it.

Rather than spend idle hours contemplating the impact and meaning of the multitude of records he set, Stockton prefers to focus on "why was I able to do certain things," and how he can best relay those secrets and tips to the next generation.

"Why was I able to be able to pass? What did I do right that allowed me to make a pass — any given pass?" he asks. "There's balance, there's vision. (But) what did I practice? And how can I convey those things to an 8-year-old, who obviously can't pick up what you learned over a lifetime of playing?

"They can't pick it up in a second. But how do you start those wheels turning in those kids?"

It's "those types of thoughts" that occupy Stockton's mind, not what was or might have been.

And he enjoys every moment of it, thinking all the time about the long list of coaches he's had, from the ones when he was young to those like Sloan and Frank Layden.

"I've benefited from great coaches my whole life, starting in sixth grade," Stockton said. "To be able to pass that on is a neat experience for me."

More often than not, connections are made.

"You can see in the eyes of the kids the things that you felt way back when," he said.

"It's like saying, 'What did you pick up from your parents?' Sometimes, you don't really know until you're standing over your child, and you're discussing something, and you go, 'Oh, I've heard that before. Where did that come from?' "

Perhaps it was Pop. Or it could have been a coach.

In either case, Stockton said, it "would be a wonderful compliment" to suggest he emulates those who paved the way.

"If I could turn into my old coaches, or my parents," he said, "then I'd consider that a definite plus."

With all that to sort, Stockton said he's barely been inclined to ponder the night — Nov. 22, when Utah plays host to New Orleans — that the Jazz will retire his jersey No. 12 and unveil a lifelike statue of him outside the Delta Center.

For that matter, even his kids are supposedly oblivious about the honor that is to come.

"They know it's gonna happen," he said. "(But) I don't know if they know when the date is — I mean, it's not a big discussion item in our house."

Not when there are games to play, and games to coach.

Childrens' games, this is. Not NBA.


E-mail: tbuckley@desnews.com