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The Jazz have just 14 games remaining in their season, and they were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention — as if their hopes hadn't died long ago — with Thursday's loss to Washington.

Coach Jerry Sloan, however, isn't looking ahead already to the 2005-06 NBA season.

Rather, he has one thing — and one thing only — in mind. That is the remainder of this season, since he has no idea what the next will hold.

"You never know where you'll be next year — in coaching or not," he said. "There's no guarantee of any of that. If I get sick or don't feel like coming, I won't be here. If I (do feel like it), I will."

He simply will not ponder next year — for his team or otherwise — until this one is done.

Sure, making his players better for days down the road is important.

"I still play them," he said, "to try to help them develop, to become better players, and have a better understanding of what's going on in the game.

"We don't look to change a lot of guys. We try to give guys experience," Sloan added. "We try to keep them together so that they'll grow together and hopefully have confidence in one another to become better players. That's what we've always tried to do."

The notions of turning his team over to rookies or playing for extra NBA Draft lottery balls, however, are ones that only make Sloan cringe.

"My job is to try to help players get better, not teach them how to lose. If you accept losing, you're going to be losing 10 years from now," he added. "That's my biggest concern with this group of guys: How many of them are going to want to really win when it comes right down to it?"
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