The lights still came on. The fans still showed up. The game was still played. Even Karl "The Mailman" Malone sat baseline.
But Jerry Sloan was gone.
And the Hall of Fame coach whose name, intensity and consistency defined the Jazz for 23 consecutive seasons isn't coming back.
Things were different in Jazzland on Friday. But they were also exactly the same.
Utah fell to the Phoenix Suns 95-83 at EnergySolutions Arena, marking Tyrone Corbin's head-coaching debut after Sloan unexpectedly resigned Thursday. It was the first time since 1988 that the proud, resilient, no-nonsense general wasn't in charge.
The Jazz's bench looked empty.
With Sloan missing and longtime assistant Phil Johnson having followed his friend out the door, Utah was down to just three coaches: Corbin, Scott Layden and Jeff Hornacek. And Hornacek isn't yet an official hire.
Stalwarts such as director of basketball operations Richard Smith, head athletic trainer Gary Briggs and player-development coach Mark McKown were still around.
But when the dark-suited Corbin knelt on the floor during a timeout, immediately becoming the center of a huddle and taking the spot long shared by a barking Sloan and Johnson the message was clear: Nothing lasts and everything changes.
To Taylorsville resident Sheila Farley, the news of Sloan's shocking decision to step down felt like a death in the family.
"I thought it was sad," Farley said. "It was almost like somebody passed away."
But Sloan was a penny philosopher. He preached that life is bigger than the game of basketball, and both were 1,000 times larger than he.
And each kept on keeping on Friday night.
Corbin was greeted with a standing ovation. Then he screamed, pointed and paced, channeling his much-loved mentor.
Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor was a calm sea. Until tipoff.
Then O'Connor again became the most demanding fan in the arena, at times leaping out of his center-court seat and jumping a row down just so a referee could hear his voice a little clearer.
Utah's public-relations push continued, with O'Connor soaking up pregame and in-game interviews, all while the mad Mailman delivered on everything from old-school values to new-school politics.
Deron Williams played and looked like Deron Williams, shrugging off more than a few boos. C.J. Miles turned a starting spot into a spotlight. And rookie Gordon Hayward traded increased court time for improved production.
All the while, Sloan's garbage can stood alone.
The gray-haired one often relied on the relic as a prop and a crutch, conducting shootaround and pregame interviews leaning against the red-and-white receptacle.
Not on "The Day After Sloan."
Corbin employed a tall, roped-in podium backed by a wall of Jazz logos. He acknowledged nerves. He admitted feeling weird.
Sloan was gone.
But the game went on.
Jazz fizzle against Suns
In the midst of falling 95-83 to Phoenix on Friday, the shots stopped falling for Utah. The ball stopped moving. The pick-and-roll defense betrayed the Jazz at the wrong time. › D10