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How Kirilenko found peace with Sloan

Remember the time Andrei Kirilenko cried because he couldnt figure out his role with the Jazz and Jerry Sloan said, Im not a psychologist?

The Jazz were in the playoffs and things had been building up with A.K. Finally the emotions overflowed. It produced a lot of drama. His wife Masha even called me, trying to help. She said it was largely a communication problem because Andrei still didnt speak very good English.

Deseret NewsSo talking via phone this week with Kirilenko, I asked what his relationship is now with Sloan.

We have a great relationship, he said.

Then he elaborated.

A basketball team is like a family, especially when youre so long with the same franchise. And its a day-by-day thing where youre seeing the same faces in the locker roomI see it every day in my family. Its great, but at some point things get frustrating, something doesnt go the way you planned, and things happen.

He said at that point with the Jazz I didnt really know how to handle the situation, but we resolved it and got back to our relationship.

In hindsight, he said, it was a great experience because he learned more appreciation for his wife and kids.

At that time, I was so involved in and attached to the basketball, I didnt really see anything else. Theres more than basketball in life and that kind of shifted my priorities and it kind of cooled me down.

I remember talking to Masha and she seemed a truly caring spouse who wanted to help her husband -- who was clearly in distress. If Im reading Kirilenkos comments correctly, the stress with Sloan brought him closer to his family and taught him what it meant.

And through it all, he and Sloan are still friends.