Updated: March 6, 2007, 11:14 AM ET

Looking for Jerry-tale ending

Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan likes to hit the garage sales in the offseason near his home in McLeansboro, Ill.

Coaching is a very stressful job. Sometimes you want to spend your time off doing the exact opposite of your duties during the long NBA season -- like rummaging around a stranger's old stuff for a socket wrench or a long-lost 45 record.

It would be nice if Sloan found a Coach of the Year award in one of those boxes.

He deserves it. This is his 19th year leading the Jazz. He's led his team to 10 50-win seasons, and this is looking like No. 11. He put win No. 1,025 in the books after Monday's 120-95 win over the Bobcats that lifted his team to 41-19.

This is more than a lifetime achievement award. While he has maintained his team at or near the top almost every year, the guy has done a very good job this year. The Jazz are every single year the best executing team in the league, particularly in the half court. He's had some practice with guys named Stockton and Malone.

The man turns 65 later this month. Partially for sentimental reasons, he would be my choice. But if I were to guess, he might not win it.

Here are four others who could …

Mavericks coach Avery Johnson -- What differentiates Johnson from many coaches is his ability to get guys to buy in -- one example is Jerry Stackhouse, who seems content and happy playing 20 minutes a game. Johnson's team is now 50-9, on a 15-game win streak. Buying into that? Good idea.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich -- Everybody bemoaned the fall of the Spurs, but look, they're right there. Guys are playing as well as ever, always disciplined. His team's playing well, peaking at the right time and currently sits one game ahead of the Jazz for the No. 3 seed in the West.

Pistons coach Flip Saunders -- Give him credit for being more of an offensive coach than some of the top COY candidates -- and now that he has an offensive player with Chris Webber's skills -- Detroit's by far the best team in the East.

Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy -- One of the smartest minds in the game today. While Tracy McGrady was out, Van Gundy kept his team in a position to hang in there, and then become a very dangerous team for the playoffs.

Having a healthy T-Mac changes the equation, and he was joined Monday by one of the top three centers in the league in Yao Ming. Van Gundy know his players' strengths, and is demanding in the right way.

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Hanging In There With Shaq
Ali
AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
Shaquille O'Neal had 14 points and nine rebounds on the eve of his 35th birthday, and the Heat beat the Hawks 88-81. The Heat are over .500 for the first time in nearly four months.


Dime Mailbag: The MVPs

Jamal Crawford over Andre Iguodala as one of your two honorable-mention guys for MVP of the Atlantic Division? You've got to be kidding. Do you think any GM in the league wouldn't trade Crawford for Iguodala straight up? And you can't really say that you picked Crawford over Iguodala because his team was doing better. You also picked Dwight Howard, whose team is dropping like a rock.
-- Ken Rudnick

I'm a Pistons fan, but how can you possibly say Billups is the MVP of the division over LeBron? Take out Billups and we're still a .500 team. Take out LeBron and the Cavs may have 10 wins all season.
-- Jim (Detroit)

Thank you for recognizing Deron Williams' excellence. I feel he's often been overlooked by the national media, but after Dirk and Nash I think he has to be No. 3 on the list of MVP candidates and I'd actually take him above Nash if it was up to me.

-- Tom (Las Vegas)



He's No Oden, But …
Spencer Hawes

I've gotten a lot of e-mails about why Washington's freshman center Spencer Hawes is ranked so high.

If you watched the UCLA-Washington game on Saturday, you know why. Hawes is the most offensively skilled player in the country -- a guy who can score with either hand around the basket. He also possesses the ability to step out to 18 feet and draw out defenses.

The only thing that stops him offensively is his teammates. Much too often, Washington's guards refuse to pass it to Hawes on the block.

And while his rebounding has been a disappointment this season (thanks in part to Jon Brockman cleaning up every loose ball), Hawes' 14 boards against UCLA showed he was capable of excelling in that department too.

Add in his excellent passing skills and basketball IQ, and Hawes is one of the rare 7-footers who could come into the league and be a scoring threat right away.

Complete Chad Ford blog


Records At A Glance



J-Rich Comes Home, Drops 29 On Pistons

Warriors end six-game skid, win in Detroit


First Game Back
Yao
AP Photo/Tony Dejak
Dikembe Mutombo walks Yao Ming off the court during a timeout after Yao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas got tangled going after a rebound in the fourth quarter. The Cavs won 91-85. Yao finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocks and 5 turnovers. Yao missed 32 games with a leg injury.




Extreme Behavior
LeBron James

Monday's Best
Cavs forward LeBron James: King me. Thirty-two points, 12 rebounds and eight assists in a win over the Rockets that lifted Cleveland to 35-25 on the season. Edges Mehmet Okur, whose sinking of 13 of 15 shots against toothless Cats rates a close second.

Vince Carter

Monday's Worst:
Bucks center Andrew Bogut: The No. 1 overall pick from 2005 had three straight double-doubles coming into Monday's game. That run is over after 20 minutes on the court during which Bogut posted zero points and three rebounds in a 99-81 loss to the Magic.

Quote of the Day
"We can't play well if he goes right back to what he was doing before he got hurt, which is being a high turnover guy. It's impossible to have offensive rhythm."
-- Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, on Yao Ming's uneven return, in which he committed five turnovers.

See how all 122 who played stacked up
Playoff matchups if season ended now

-- Andrew Ayres



Turn To Machine When Lottery Is Only Hope
LV

As many Boston and Philadelphia fans grit their teeth with each totally unnecessary and counterproductive win, with each passing day, the NBA draft is that much closer. Check out where your team projects.

Lottery + Mock Draft




Don't Forget This Sun
Shawn Marion

A.J. (Chicago): When Phoenix loses to lowly Philadelphia with Shawn Marion out of the lineup, where are all the columns proclaiming him the MVP?

John Hollinger: This is a great point. If you looked at on-court versus off-court stats last season, it was Marion, not Steve Nash, who was the indispensable Sun; in fact it wasn't close. This year Nash's differential is better, but Marion's is still huge. It's just he misses so few games that people don't start on the "They're nothing without Marion" arguments the way they've done during Nash's absences.

Complete John Hollinger chat




"I Am Not Coming Back"
Reggie Miller

Reggie Miller told Dan Patrick on Monday how the rumor that he is returning to the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks got started.

"This all came from Mark Cuban," Miller said. "I have not spoken to Mark Cuban or anybody in the Mavericks organization … I am retired."

Is their a scenario that could bring you out? Patrick asked.

Miller, 41, was fairly mum, not saying what it would take to get him out of retirement.

For Miller, it seems the important thing is not to be seen as chasing a ring, and soliciting teams. But he allowed that if his people were contacted, he said his next step would be to talk to his family and friends about coming back.

Getting in shape to play for the U.S. national team this summer does interest him, he said.

The Big Show: Reggie bars

 

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