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Bulls react to Sloan's departure from Jazz

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Bulls react to Sloan's departure from Jazz

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
2:28 p.m.

By Aggrey Sam
CSNChicago.com

NEW ORLEANSWith Thursdays announcement that longtime Jazz coach and former Bulls legend Jerry Sloan stepped down, the Bullswho beat Utah in Sloans final game Wednesdayhad plenty of reaction to the news after Fridays practice.

Its surprising, but I think hes earned the right to do what he chooses to do. He did an unbelievable job for such a long time and he stands for everything thats good about the game, the profession. You cant say enough. To be able to achieve what he did for such a long period of time and to be able to keep it at such a high level is a testament to how great he was as a coach, said Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau after the Bulls practice Friday afternoon at the New Orleans Hornets practice facility in Westwego, La. It also reflects who he is. He coached a certain way and to me, I think all the great coaches are like that. He had beliefs about the game and thats the way his teams played year in, year out, night in, night out and thats why I also think he was so successful.

Hes an all-time great. He might even be the best and to do it like he did it for that long is incredible, he continued. His teams, they executed, they played hard, they played together, they played smart, they were hard to play against. I thought he got the most out of his team, year in and year out. During the course of the season, theres a lot of stuff that goes on and its all part of it. The things that he taught and he believed in, theyve withstood the test of time.

I was surprised and at the same time, I wish him the best of luck because he had a long career, a very successful career. I felt honored to be able to learn from him and play for him, and being around him during his time in the NBA. We lost a great coach, said Carlos Boozer. Hes just old school. He only asks one thing and thats play hard and play together.
WATCH: Jerry Sloan announces his resignation as head coach of Jazz

Thats what he taught us every day, he went on to say. I dont think anybody saw anything like this coming.

Reserve swingman Ronnie Brewer, who was drafted by the Jazz and played for them until the middle of last season, was also shocked.

I didnt see it coming. I would have thought he would have coached another five years, just because he was so passionate about the game. He enjoyed coming to work every day and he was such a fixture on the sideline that I couldnt imagine not seeing him over there, said Brewer Its going to be different, but I guess his time has passed and hes ready to move on. Its unfortunate that he went out like that. If hes happy, Im happy for him.

Randy Brown, who competed against Sloans Jazz teams as a playerwinning back-to-back championships over Utah in 1996-97 and 1997-98 with the Bullswas also saddened by the coachs departure.

Im totally shocked. Basketball lost a great person. Great competitor. The thing I remember about Jerry is all his teams played the way he played. They were all aggressive, they were tough, mean and theres always a place for a guy like that. it was a sad, sad day when he shut it down, Brown, a Chicago native, who is now the Bulls special assistant to the general manager, told CSNChicago.com. I just remember him and Norm Van Lier.

I didnt know too much about Jerry at the time, but I just remember he was a tough, tough guy. He and Norm made a great backcourt. That was the first No. 4 Id ever know. I always thought at some point, he would come back and coach the Bulls. Now, to see him leave the game is kind of sad.

WATCH: Up Close & Personal with Ronnie Brewer

Regarding reports that a conflict with Jazz All-Star point guard Deron Williamswhether it was the reported halftime confrontation or the coach tiring of management taking Williams side in team mattersSloans former players were skeptical.

I dont know the truth. Its speculation. Im not in the locker room, I wasnt there, so I really dont know how much to read into that, but its basketball. To me, when you have a team, its like a family atmosphere. As everybody knows, families argue, sometimes are dysfunctional and you have disagreements. You have that on every team, but at the end of the day, you have to be able to move on, set your differences apart, look forward and not in the past. If thats true, whats being said, then thats unfortunate that thats the reason that caused him to stop coaching. I think its a little more than that. I know D-Will, hes a good guy. I know the guys in that locker room, theyre good guys and I think they were more shocked and disappointed to see that happen, as well, opined Brewer. Theyre both competitors, they both want to win. You have that combination of two guys, sometimes you have disagreements. You see that on the court all the time. You see competitors that to win so bad, they get into it with their teammates or their coach. Not that theyre bad guys or dysfunctional teammates, theyre just fierce competitors and want to do anything possible to win the game.

Added Boozer: Whatever happened, happened in the locker room.

Im not in the locker room anymore. But Ill tell you this from my years being there, theres not one person. Nobody pushed Jerry out of coaching, he continued. I dont believe that Deron pushed him out. I dont believe that management pushed him out. Thats not what I believe, but Im not there, so I cant confirm or deny any of that. All I know is that when I was there, he ran it. Me not being there, I cant speculate on what happened this season.

Thibodeau concurred: I think its all speculation. With Jerry, theres nothing that he hasnt been through. What he said is him being totally honest. He said it was time to move on and thats what he did. You dont let one disagreementif that happenedI think you look at his entire body of work. For so many years, hes been able to handle everything thats come his way and hes handled it with a lot of dignity and a lot of class, and maybe he just wanted a break.

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He always said he would know when its time and thats what he did. I respect him.

Hired as acting head coach (not the dreaded interim label) to fill in for Sloan is longtime Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin, who also played for the organization and has been considered a candidate for various head-coaching vacancies around the league the past few offseasons.

Hes a great guy. Hes paid his dues and I think its reflective of their organization, too. that organization has stood for all the thingsand I think Jerry helped instill those things, as did Frank Laydenand its been a lot of continuity for a long time. When you look at it, thats also a big part of why theyre so successful. It went from Frank Layden to Jerry, said Thibodeau, who coached Corbin, a former DePaul star, with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hes a great guy, great teacher, great communicator and I think the fact that he played in their system and he worked under Jerry, I think is going to be a great asset for him. It helps if youve worked under a great coach and I think hes going to benefit from that. Hes part of that family, so I think itll be a seamless transition for them.

Chimed in Brewer: If he didnt get the Utah job, it was only a matter of time before he got a coaching job in this league anyway.

His time was coming soon. Im just happy for him. He knows the players, he knows that system, the fans know him and hes well respected, so Im happy to see that thats the person they had to replace Coach Sloan. I know hell do a good job.

While Thibodeau indicated Sloan may be simply taking a break from coaching, Boozer believes the Hall of Famer is done.

Coach, hes the type of man where if he gives you his word, thats it, so if he says hes retired, that means hes not coming back.

Aggrey Sam is CSNChicago.com's Bulls Insider. Follow him @CSNBullsInsider on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bulls information and his take on the team, the NBA and much more.

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

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USA TODAY

Emotional return to the court for Quincy Pondexter after missing two seasons: 'The journey is worth it'

Quincy Pondexter’s trade to Chicago makes him a newcomer. His birth certificate makes him a veteran. But it’s his story that makes him worth listening to.

Even in the eye of team chaos, Pondexter’s debut with the Bulls had such a special meaning that when he entered the game to start the second quarter, he thought he would come to tears.

Having been out of basketball the last two years after knee surgeries went bad, Pondexter came close to dying in a New York hospital in January when his organs began to fail after a MRSA infection.

Catching MRSA can often lead to death.

“It wasn’t looking good,” Pondexter said. “It was tough. I prayed. My family was there close to me. Being able to play basketball again in less than a year is crazy. It’s all God. This journey has been amazing.”

His journey took him from being in New Orleans, where his knee troubles started, to being an addition to the Bulls in a trade months ago when the Bulls picked up cash and a second-round pick from the Pelicans.

Pondexter joined high school teammate and close friend Robin Lopez on a team needing some leadership, and due to the punch Bobby Portis threw to Nikola Mirotic Tuesday afternoon, it put Pondexter in position to get on the floor as a backup power forward behind rookie Lauri Markkanen.

If the Bulls were smart, they’d probably put Pondexter in a room to talk to his teammates about his struggles, especially the two teammates who may have to share the same floor in several weeks.

“The competitive nature of our team has been really terrific and we wouldn't want to trade that for anything,” Pondexter said. “It hurts those two guys aren't here right now. But we love them and we love what they brought to this team.

“I think my age on my ID solidifies me as one of the veterans. When you do things the right way, that's what it means to be a veteran. Show up first, last one there. That's what it means to be a veteran. Establishing myself there and doing things that are right, the guys have followed and listened and embraced me and I love it.”

No word on whether Pondexter got teary-eyed when he got a breakaway steal and dunk for his first points since the 2015 playoffs, when the Pelicans were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the eventual champion Warriors.

“I know I’m going to get emotional on the court later on and probably tear up,” Pondexter said after the morning shootaround. “I told Robin that a thousand times. People don’t know what you’ve been through. There are a lot of times they’re not there besides your close family and friends. I appreciate them carrying me through this whole process.”

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can relate to Pondexter, with Hoiberg’s heart ailment cutting his career short. When the Bulls coach speaks about the frailty of the game and how precious things are in the NBA, Pondexter is living, breathing proof.

“I’m really really happy for Quincy. For a time there, his life was in danger with his infection. I know he’s really excited to get his career going again,” Hoiberg said. “I never got that opportunity to get back out there. I tell these guys to cherish it ever day. You never know when it can end. All of a sudden. For Quincy to get this chance, it’s awesome.”

Pondexter, with the straightest of faces, called basketball his “obsession” and he felt happy to get back on the floor, if even for a few minutes.

“I love it to death. It’s my life,” Pondexter said. “Basketball is what got me through it---my family and basketball. It was like, ‘How can I make this story even better? Do I quit?’ No. I watched so many inspirational movies, 'Hacksaw Ridge.' They get you through tough times because you say, ‘That’s going to be me.’ I’m going to be able to inspire someone down the road. That’s really helped me.”

A hamstring injury slowed Pondexter in training camp, which would explain his lack of explosive lift in the season opener.

No one was really sure if the Bulls would hold onto him for the season, but it’s clear he holds value beyond the box score. When he finished his media session, Lopez turned to Pondexter and said, “Now you’re stuck with me”, putting his arm around his teammate.

“Being able to play after two and a half years, it feels like hundreds of surgeries, getting traded to this organization. It's been a lot,” Pondexter said. “I wouldn't trade any of that for this moment right now and how I feel in my heart. I can't wait to get on this floor and play with my teammates and try to do something special. The journey is worth it.”

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Trounced by Raptors in season opener

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue break down the Bulls season opener vs the Raptors. They’ll explain why Bulls fans should be very happy with the debut of rookie Lauri Markkanen and Kendall points out why he expects the Markkanen/Lavine combo to be great on the offensive end. They’ll also go over their concerns at point guard, and Will shares his story of how Greg Popovich dealt with a losing Spurs team in 1996-97.