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Former Supersonics, Nuggets Coach George Karl Wanted His Teams To Be Like Sloan’s Jazz Teams

Photos courtesy of Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Longtime NBA head coach George Karl always wanted his teams to play like the Utah Jazz did under Jerry Sloan.

Karl caught up with KSL Sports’ Sam Farnsworth after the passing of Sloan on Friday morning due to Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

The longtime NBA head coach Karl was trying to build his teams like Sloan and the Jazz.

“The Sloan, (John) Stockton, (Karl) Malone versus Karl, (Gary) Payton and (Shawn) Kemp is something that I am always going to remember,” Karl said. “Because we grew up almost trying to copy the success of the Utah Jazz.”

Karl had six stops in the NBA including time with the Cleveland Cavaliers from 1984-86, Seattle Supersonics from 1992-98, Milwaukee Bucks from 1998-03, Denver Nuggets from 2005-13 and Sacramento Kings from 2015-16.

Playoff Battles

Karl met Sloan in the Jazz many times in the NBA playoffs with both the Supersonics and the Nuggets. They met three times throughout their careers in the postseason. The first time was in the first round of the 1993 postseason when the Sonics beat the Jazz in five games. The second time was in the 1996 Western Conference Finals where Seattle pulled out the series in Game 7 at home.

“We were up 3-1 and we thought we had the series won,” Karl recalled. “They came back and won a tough game in Seattle and blew us out in Salt Lake City. We won a really close game in Game 7.”

Finally, the two met in the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs when the Jazz beat the Denver Nuggets in six games.

“He believes in physical and aggressive play,” Karl said. “He was a no nonsense kind of guy that doesn’t want to hear about individuality, it’s a team game, is demanding at the defensive end of the court and very clever and smart. Smart is not talked about by NBA fans and media. But having an intelligent basketball team was the forte of a Jerry Sloan basketball team.”

Division Rivals With Denver

As division rivals, Karl and the Nuggets would face Sloan and the Jazz at least four times during the regular season and they even met once in the postseason. Back then, Karl had Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson who would create great matchups and make for great games among the rocky mountain teams.

“The thing we always respected was how well they were coached,” Karl said. “They could change their personality. We only had one personality and that was to play fast. But, if you went to Utah and wanted to play fast, they would play fast with you.”

Karl knew that Sloan was known for his defense but admired his offense.

“He (Jerry Sloan) was a masterful coach of offense,” Karl mentioned. “I know he was known for his defense but his versatility and creativity offensively was well admired by most coaches in the NBA.”

Farnsworth asked Karl what was Sloan’s defining legacy as a head coach.

“I think in 23 years and sustaining excellence in one city, he and (Gregg) Popovich are the only guys that I can remember that last that long in one city. To stay with one franchise and one organization shows the character of both the organization and also the head coach. Also, his loyalty to the game and to the profession of coaching.”

For more on the life and legacy of former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan visit kslsports.com/jerrysloan.