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Former Jazz Man, BYU Great Andy Toolson Remembers Jerry Sloan Always Caring

Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan looks on during a game against the Denver Nuggets. Credit: Brian Bahr /Allsport (Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – During the 23-year run for Jerry Sloan as head coach of the Utah Jazz he coached two former BYU players in Rafael Araujo and Andy Toolson.

Toolson was a star small forward at BYU during his collegiate career in the late ’80s and earned a spot in BYU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. Despite the success at the collegiate level, Toolson went undrafted by NBA teams before finally landing a free agent deal with Sloan’s Jazz weeks before the start of the 1990-91 season.

Toolson appeared in 60 games in two different stints with the Jazz, the other season with the hometown franchise coming in 1995-96. The former BYU star shared some of his memories playing for the late great Jerry Sloan, who passed away on Friday at the age of 78 in a recent interview on Cougar Sports Saturday (KSL NewsRadio, Saturday 12-3 pm).

“I have a lot of great memories of Coach Jerry Sloan. First of all, I just think he was a good man and he was a kind-hearted man,” said Toolson. “Everybody knew Jerry Sloan as a tough hard-nosed, bottom-line guy. I just looked at him as a guy that just really wanted his players to play hard and play together and play the right way to respect the game.”

The respect for the game and playing hard gave Toolson the opportunity to start in 15 games as a rookie during the 1990-91 season, Sloan’s second full season as the organization’s head coach.

“I came as an undrafted rookie and I knew that the only way I was gonna make the team [was] to play as he did. Just be tough and just play as hard as I could all the time. I think that’s really just what he expected of all his players. Obviously, he had some players that were stars like Karl and John that were there forever it seemed. But a lot of other guys like me that were just there for you know, a short time and on the edge of the roster. But Coach Sloan treated everybody with respect and kindness and was just very fair. I have a lot of respect for Jerry and the way he went about things every day.”

Toolson stood between Jerry Sloan and a ref down in South Beach

Sloan was a winner and a man of consistency during his historic run with the Jazz. There were also some iconic moments where Sloan would get after opposing players or officials from the bench. If he did that, you probably didn’t want to get in Coach Sloan’s path.

Andy Toolson remembers well getting in between Sloan and an official during his rookie season in a game on the road against the Miami Heat.

“I remember going to Miami and coach got his first technical and he was still after the ref and I was on the bench and kind of circled around just to try to stand between him and the official along with the other players. I think he didn’t get tossed that game. But I remember riding the elevator after the game in the hotel in Miami and that was right at the time when it was the cutoff. If you’re going to be on the roster the next day, you’d get paid for the rest of the season and you’re going to be on the team.

“And I remember Coach Sloan was laughing [in the elevator], saying, ‘you kind of got in between me and the official.’ And then he said,  ‘Are you nervous? Andy?’ And I said, ‘a little bit. should I be?’ and he says, ‘Nah you’re going to be okay.'”

Toolson finished out his rookie season with the Jazz averaging 10 minutes per game in 47 appearances. After his first stint in Utah, Toolson went on to have a successful pro career overseas.

“Coach Sloan had a sense of humor too and he cared about people,” said Toolson. “I just think as a person he was very kind-hearted and gentle. Obviously tough and demanding yet he really did care about people and people really respected that about him.”

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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