This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Jerry Sloan doesn't believe the NBA's new dress code will affect his endorsement deal with John Deere at all. Mainly because he doesn't have one.
"Not a penny," the Jazz coach said of his income from the farm-equipment manufacturer. "If I buy another tractor, I suppose they'd give me another hat."
Maybe so. But he couldn't wear it around the Delta Center.
Sloan's trusty black-and-green farmer's cap is the first casualty of NBA Commissioner David Stern's formal guidelines on proper workplace attire, which besides banning gaudy chains, low-riding jeans and sloppy T-shirts, forbids team personnel from wearing headgear while interacting with the public or media.
Sure, Stern's target may have been urban-stylish players who don do-rags or wear their Yankees caps backward, and not a 63-year-old southern Illinois hay farmer. But few NBA coaches believe more fervently in enforcing rules than Sloan, whose frequent midgame barks to "tuck in your shirt!" are as much a venerated Utah idiosyncrasy as his habit of wearing an old freebie ballcap to practice.
So the Jazz's chief disciplinarian has no problems complying with his employer's new edict.
"If they told me to take my shoes off, I'd coach barefoot," Sloan said.
Nope, the black wingtips are fine.
Those tractor caps, though, long ago became something of a Sloan trademark, buttressing his Everyman image in a league full of Hollywood divas. "He's been wearing that thing as long as I can remember," said center Greg Ostertag, whose memories with Sloan date back 10 seasons - and at least that many varieties of John Deere regalia.
Yet his cap has no special sentimental value, Sloan said, mostly because he wore it for practical reasons, not vanity. Despite the mistaken, though commonly held, belief around Salt Lake that he is paid to endorse John Deere products, Sloan said he was not trying to make a statement about tractors, farms or that famous antler logo.
He was just trying to keep his head warm.
"I played in Chicago," he said with a laugh. "You wear caps in wintertime there."
In Utah, too. So as he headed out the door on his way to practice one blustery morning almost two decades ago, he grabbed the first thing he could find to cover his skull: A cheap giveaway mesh-knit, a throw-in from a more substantial transaction.
"It doesn't really have anything to do with John Deere. I just bought a tractor and they gave me a cap," Sloan said. "I guess I paid $4,000 for a cap."
He has paid a lot more than that - Sloan's collection of antique tractors numbers nearly 50 and occupies two huge barns on his McLeansboro, Ill., farm. He figures he has received a similar number of hats over the years, too, a lot of them from Utah and Illinois tractor dealers who know free product placement when they see it.
The company's front office wasn't entirely aware it was getting TV facetime every basketball season, but now that Sloan must go capless, "we're a little disappointed," spokesperson Mary Leonard said from Deere & Co.'s world headquarters in Moline, Ill. "We want him to abide by the dress code. We do hope he continues to wear his coveted John Deere cap at home, though."
Maybe he will. He might even put it on during the team's closed practices, since "I've kind of gotten used to it."
But he definitely will no longer cover his silver hair during news conferences, on the Jazz's bus or when driving to the arena. Which doesn't bother him a bit.
"It's not a big deal to me. If the owners of this league feel this is something we need to do, then you'd better go do something else if you don't like it," Sloan said. "It had to come off sooner or later, I guess."
It's just going to take some getting used to, is all.
"It will be unusual not to see Coach wearing the hat, he's been wearing it so long," said center Jarron Collins.
But, added Ostertag, "Jerry's still Jerry. That part hasn't changed."