Today in The Works: Jerry Sloan has many options for his bright and freckled future.
The One And Future Sloan
Jerry Sloan is no longer the coach of the Utah Jazz. It's almost impossible to fathom. But it happened, and no matter what happens to the Jazz, Deron Williams or Salt Lake City, really, as usual the real story is Jerry Sloan. What will the former coach and eternal icon do next? The Works is joined by Rob Peterson to offer up a few possibilities.
Announcer: This suggestion isn't particularly original -- many retired players and coaches go into commentating as a way to stick with the game they know without devoting so many hours of their lives to it. Sloan should be a natural: he's exceedingly knowledgeable and has been expressing himself in press conferences for years. However, Hubie Brown already has the role of "ornery older ex-coach" filled quite well, which means Sloan will have to find his own angle to stand out in the business. Luckily, Hubie is extremely talkative, often over-explaining plays to the point where he discusses a single possession for several minutes. Sloan, on the other hand, can get ahead by barely speaking, instead chiming in with some words of wisdom like "bad pass" or "he didn't rotate" once every thirty seconds. It won't be artful, but as that loudmouth said many centuries ago, brevity is the soul of wit.
Stand-up Comedian: Yes, I know, Sloan seems like an angry old dude who still thinks Lenny Bruce was too much of a rabble-rouser. But did you see the man's farewell press conference yesterday? In the midst of what should have been an overpowering emotional moment, Sloan was cracking jokes about getting drunk to the press. That's how you defuse a difficult situation, and it's something comedians do extremely well. Plus, as Albert Brooks once said, a curse word can earn laughs even when it's not tied to a real joke. Sloan is the master of foul language in the locker room, so it stands to reason that he can hold his own in the world of comedy, too. At his age, he should be able to get a steady job working nightly shows on a cruise ship. That sounds just lovely for a 68-year-old who's always wanted to see the Baltic Sea.
Bartender: When asked about his plans for tonight's Jazz game, Sloan informed everyone that he would be "a dizzy duck," which is apparently a euphemism for getting really hammered. But if Sloan wants to drink a lot, he'll need to do so in a socially acceptable setting, which is why he should open a bar and serve as the chief bartender. Sure, people in Utah are only allowed to purchase alcohol on overcast Tuesdays, but that doesn't mean the bar can't be a success. Sloan has name recognition and legendary status in Salt Lake City. Put a few appetizers on the menu and it's sure to become one of the area's key landmarks along with the one place where Joseph Smith found all the salt.
Motivational Speaker: Are you depressed? Do you lack self-esteem? Would you like to be yelled at for hours on end about how you are an embarrassment to your family? Then get ready for a Coach Sloan seminar, where Jerry will tell each participant exactly how they're lacking in startling detail. Most motivational speakers empower their charges, but Sloan would succeed by doing the opposite because the man is a firm believer that you can only build someone up after you've turned them into a sniveling pile of anthropomorphic tears. Hey, if it worked for Greg Ostertag, then it can work for regular folks like you and me.
Police Detective: If you've ever seen a cop show, then you know that most good detectives get results through sheer force of will. Sloan lost that battle in Utah, but he can survive on the mean streets of any major American city by pushing around alleged criminals, who have none of the rights of wealthy basketball players. Whenever Sloan thinks someone is guilty, he can pull a good-cop/bad-cop routine with partner Phil Johnson and yell at someone for hours on end about how they're lying. In the end, the times caught up with Sloan in the NBA and he had to resign. But as a cop, he'll have free reign to do whatever he wants so long as he solves his cases. That's what I've learned from these shows, at least. Then again, you can never trust what you hear in the media.
"Dancing With the Stars" Contestant: Yes, there's been some Internet buzz that has incorrectly assumed that "retired" quarterback/alleged profane MMS text-sender Brett Favre would make a perfect candidate for DWTS. Balderdash! Sloan would be much better. No, he would be perfect for the show for the simple reason everyone thinks it would be a disaster. Who wouldn't watch Sloan as he tangoed his way through a routine, rose clenched between his teeth to pass to his exhausted, yet exhilarated dancing partner? Who wouldn't watch for the chance to see Sloan go ballistic after three consecutive fives from the judges? Yet, Sloan can also be charming, self-effacing and humble. Hell, he may even be good. He was an athlete and footwork, as it is in dancing, is key. Cast against type, I say, like Sergio Leone did with Henry Fonda in "Once Upon a Time in the West." You'll thank me later.
"... Senator Sloan. Governor Sloan ... " Now that Sloan has left the NBA family, maybe he can try another cutthroat arena: politics. Sloan is revered in Utah. Orrin Hatch, who is 76, will be up for re-election in 2012. (You can forget about John Cornyn. His term ends in 2014, and governor Gary Herbert's ends that year as well.) Could Hatch retire and Sloan make a run at public office? The senators in Sloan's home state of Illinois each have more than four years left on their terms as does governor Pat Quinn, who was elected by the slimmest of margins (50.2 percent of the popular vote) in 2010. And Quinn's two predecessors have had legal troubles. Doesn't bad news come in threes? I'm just sayin'. We know that Sloan, who barely changed his offensive style in his 23 years as Jazz coach, is basically incorruptible. He could be the man for the job.
John Deere Spokesman: Everyone knows Sloan hasn't strayed far from his agrarian roots and, in fact, has been lauded for embodying them: tenacity, hard work, humility. According to his NBA.com bio, Sloan returns to his native McLeansboro, Ill. home to go "... to garage and yard sales and restoring old John Deere tractors." Could you think of a better match between corporation and spokesman? I can't. Maybe John Deere could build a national advertising campaign around Sloan on a riding mower, cutting grass and looking grizzled: "Jerry Sloan has had the same John Deere tractor since 1970. If someone as loyal as Jerry Sloan stands by his John Deere mower, shouldn't you?" Yeah, that would work. Or he could star in a remake of The Straight Story. Either way, in your face, Toro!
Tourist Attraction: Sloan is an institution in Utah, the very embodiment of basketball in Salt Lake City. Why exactly would he bother to work a job, when he can easily just go about his daily business but charge adoring fans a few bucks for a glimpse? It would be like a cross between Big Brother and making a pilgrimage, and Sloan is so grumpy anyway, it's not like having thousands of fans watching him would make him any more surly. Of course, it would also kind of be like a peep show, because if Sloan got a good look at anyone, he might curse them out if they ever ran into each at the gas station. A non-stop procession of well-wishers and acolytes ... actually that sounds more like a funeral. Whatever. Jerry Sloan isn't dead, he's just kicking back on that wooden bench he calls a couch. Inside his head, visions of spare change lining up to jump into a gigantic piggy bank.
Character Actor: The great thing about being a character actor is that you can either do one thing really well, or simply be an ultra-accomplished, versatile actor who specializes in bringing minor roles to life. Sloan could certainly do the first -- hell, he might even rise up from the mulch and become his own kind of leading man, like Charles Bronson for the yardwork set. However, there's more to Sloan than his curmudgeonly brilliance which at this point, is so fine-tuned that it's become its own kind of act. Imagine him as a villain with a heart of gold. The older man in a doomed love triangle. A weatherman who hates cats. The possibilities are truly endless, if only you believe.
Animal Trainer: Who knows if Jerry Sloan likes animals or not. But you know who responds to old-fashioned, unflinching coaching? Great apes and ligers. Plus, every animal trainer I've ever seen was either totally flamboyant, overly grizzled, or had this hangdog elegance to him. Sloan has the last one down to a tee. The only problem is that animals don't get paid, so if you piss them off, they will eat you. Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all.