It was one of the greatest interviews of my life.
I was co-hosting on “The Gordon Monson Show” last Friday on 1280-The Zone, and Karl Malone was the guest. As the four-hour interview began, Malone kicked off his shoes. Literally. He was in his stocking feet. Then he leaned back and told us to ask any questions we wanted.
Because I couldn’t take many notes while we were doing the show, I’ll have to rely on memory and a few partially scratched quotes. But among the things he said:
* Jerry Sloan quit because he didn’t get the support of Jazz management, last year. Malone claimed that he had it on good authority that Deron Williams’ insubordination had persisted and finally boiled over that night last season against Chicago in the Jazz locker room. Williams had broken several plays during the game and the coach and player argued heatedly afterward.
According to Malone, Jazz CEO Greg Miller and general manager Kevin O’Connor failed to back up Sloan’s wishes to suspend Williams, so he quit. Still, the hole in the story is that if Williams was more valuable than Sloan, why trade him a week after Sloan quit?
Jimmer Fredette shouldn’t worry about defense in the NBA. “If I shoot like that, you play defense.”
* Malone said he could see himself, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek one day coaching together. One idea he has is to move the Jazz franchise to New Orleans. Then move the Hornets to Utah, which would mesh nicely with the symbolic honeybee in Utah culture.
* Dick Bavetta, the NBA ref who Jazz fans believe misjudged two calls in the closing moments of Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals, later apologized to Malone and Stockton.
The Mailman said when he and Stockton saw Bavetta at an exhibition game the following fall, the longtime referee said he had suffered “the worst summer I’ve had in my life” after waving off Howard Eisley’s 3-pointer in Game 6. He added, “I tell you, that happened, and it came from Dick Bavetta. Now, if somebody say it didn’t happen, they lyin’.”
* I asked Malone who would have been a better player if he and Stockton hadn’t been teammates. Malone said, “I’m not gonna answer that.”
*Asked about the night he bloodied Isiah Thomas’ eye (Thomas claimed he could have been blinded), Malone said, “First of all, he’s lying about being blinded.”
* Malone came to Utah for the Phoenix game last year, right after Sloan quit. He said he actually made inquiries through the Jazz for tickets but was told none were available. He ended up buying tickets from a scalper.
* Malone said when he left Utah for the Lakers, “without a doubt they (the Jazz) didn’t want me.” Malone said the main person who wanted to move forward without the Mailman was Jazz G.M. Kevin O’Connor.
* Malone said Utah will have a tough time acquiring superstars, saying the only way to get one to stay here is to draft him and develop him here. But keeping one here? He doubts it.
“If a superstar comes here, I don’t see it,” he said. But he added, “Even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in awhile.”
* When I asked him if Michael Jordan pushed off Bryon Russell to get his famous shot in Game 6, 1998, Malone said: “You’re insulting my intelligence.”
Of course MJ pushed off.
* Asked what player he most hated, Malone said: “Derrick Coleman.”
“Who else?” I said.
“Who feared you, feared seeing you come in the building?”
* Malone said he expects to one day move back to Utah and added that he’d love to coach the Jazz “in the right situation.”
* On Charles Barkley: “I don’t golf and I’m better than Charles. What’s he doing, chopping wood?”
The interview is available at 975thezonefm.com