Sloan and Pollin, A Long-Delayed Reunion
Fresh from being denied career coaching win No. 1,002, Utah Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan was prepared to give his two-millionth postgame interview on Wednesday night when someone from his distant past came down the hallway at Verizon Center in a wheelchair. It was Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin, who stopped for a brief, albeit long overdue, chat.
Pollin was obviously in a good mood after his team finally won its first game of the season, beating Utah 95-87 after an 0-5 start.
"You're the guy I drafted here," the 84-year old Pollin told Sloan, whom the Baltimore Bullets drafted not once, but twice.
The Bullets snagged Sloan in the third round out of the University of Evansville in 1964, but he elected to stay in college another year. They drafted the hard-nosed Sloan the following year with the sixth overall pick. Sloan rarely played as a rookie in his lone season with the Bullets, but he went on to become the first player selected by the Bulls in the expansion draft in 1966, thus earning the nickname, "The Original Bull."
"I made a mistake and let you go," Pollin told Sloan, who made two all-star appearances and six NBA all-defensive teams with the Bulls.
"I had a fun time while I was here," Sloan told Pollin. "How you doing? Doing good?"
"Unfortunately, I have a serious illness that put me in a wheelchair," said Pollin, who is suffering from progressive supranuclear palsy, a rare degenerative disease of the brain that impairs movements and balance. "But I'm going to get better."
"I know. You're a tough guy," Sloan said.
"Not as tough as you," Pollin said with a chuckle, before he was wheeled away.
I asked Sloan afterward if he talked to Pollin much since his left town more than 40 years ago.
"First time," Sloan said.
"Well, we may have run into each other once before," Sloan said. "I didn't know who he was at first. Obviously, he looked a lot different back then."
Since the Bullets left Baltimore for Washington, the franchise changed names from Bullets to Wizards, the team now plays in a downtown arena that Pollin built, and Sloan established himself as a Hall of Fame-caliber coach, I suppose a lot can change in 42 years.
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