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26-56 team Sloan's worst in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY -- Jerry Sloan took a few weeks to reflect in the quiet setting of his Illinois farm, then realized he isn't ready to retire from basketball quite yet.

Sloan announced Thursday that he will return for an 18th season as Utah Jazz coach and agreed to a contract extension through the 2007-08 season, prolonging what is already the longest tenure of any head coach in the four major league team sports.

"Basketball is a huge part of my life. That's the only thing
I've ever really known," the 63-year-old Sloan said at a news
conference. "I didn't think I wanted to stay there [at the farm]
with my feet propped up for 12 months."

Although Sloan had a year left on his contract, his future was unclear after Utah finished with a losing record for the first time since 1983.

This was the first time he returned to his McLeansboro, Ill., farm without his wife, Bobbye, who died of cancer last June. Sloan took his time, talked with his three children and some friends about the decision.

Among the friends were former player John Stockton and Frank Layden, the man Sloan replaced as coach in December 1988. Everybody had their own advice, but nobody told Sloan to retire.

"He just said I should stay in coaching. That's where I
belong," Sloan said of Layden.

Sloan just needed a little time to convince himself. He drove 1,200 miles to his farm shortly after the Jazz ended the season at 26-56 on April 20.

Sloan made the same trip while facing the same decision over the last few years. But this time was even more difficult because Sloan still is mourning his wife.

"This is a great organization to work for and it will be my last organization I work for. The way they stood behind me in tough times, that's been very important to me," Sloan said, his voice cracking.

Sloan apologized for taking his time to reach a decision. The Jazz wanted to leave it up to him to make a choice on his future with the team.

"I hope it's not an annual thing. It just happened to be a situation where the last couple of years, I've had a lot to go
through," Sloan said.

Sloan has the sixth-most wins in NBA coaching history and is 943-617 during his career with Chicago and Utah. He took the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, but has never won the league title or coach of the year honors.

Sloan will make about $5 million next season and terms of the extension still need to be worked out. He was happy to get the announcement out of the way and start looking forward to the draft.

Utah has five picks because of trades and will have a shot at the
top overall pick in the lottery -- something Sloan would just as
soon leave for other teams.

But after the woeful season, the Jazz are stuck deep in the lottery. Only three teams have records that are worse. It wasn't how the Jazz pictured this season after obtaining Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur last summer in the biggest free agent signings in team history.

But injuries and a lack of experience set the Jazz back early, and they never recovered. Sloan felt it was his responsibility and
didn't want to end his coaching career that way.

Kevin O'Connor, Jazz vice president for basketball operations,
got the news from Sloan during a meeting Wednesday. Before the
meeting started, Sloan talked to O'Connor about potential picks as
the two worked out, so O'Connor had a good idea what Sloan would
do.

"I said, 'You know what? That sounds pretty good,"' O'Connor
said. "I don't think he'd be asking about players in the draft if
he wasn't coming back."