Jerry Sloan said he walked into EnergySolutions Arena on Wednesday night for the first time since Feb. 10, when he resigned as the Jazz's coach and retired from a profession he'd devoted the majority of his life to.
Of course, when Sloan finally returned to Utah's home arena, Phil Johnson was walking beside him.
The two were inducted Wednesday into the 2011 class of the Utah Sports Hall of Fame. They were joined by former NFL official Doug Toole, ex-University of Utah All-American softball player Annette Ausseresses and Natalie Williams, a 2000 Olympic gold medalist with the USA women's basketball team and former Utah Starzz player.
Sloan has received many honors during his life and he is a member of the Naismith Hall of Fame. But he acknowledged that Wednesday's induction was especially touching.
His coaching career was linked with Johnson's. And the longtime friends who left the Jazz together stood side by side prior to their enshrinement.
"Phil and I worked very well together because we thought … the same way on certain things and ideas about trying to play the game," Sloan said.
Johnson was equally touched, calling his induction a "great honor."
"We've had so many good experiences here," said Johnson, who attended Utah State and coached at Weber State.
Sloan continued to leave the door open for a possible return to coaching.
"I'll just see what happens," he said. "If there's interest, there is. If there's no interest, that's fine, too."
Brian T. Smith