Jerry Sloan, in a change of heart after previously telling the Jazz he did not want to be nominated, is among four first-ballot candidates from the NBA expected to gain easy entrance into the Hall of Fame, with the added scheduling twist of the first step in the enshrinement process coming just as Sloan is about to mark 20 years as Utah coach.
The fourth-winningest coach in history is believed to have dropped his previous stance, a product of preferring to avoid the spotlight, because he would be inducted in the Class of 2009 with one of his former stars, John Stockton. The other, Karl Malone, will enter in 2010.
Sloan cannot be considered an automatic in any process where No. 2 on the win list, Don Nelson, has yet to be enshrined. But Sloan's two Western Conference titles and amazing longevity should be impossible for voters to overlook.
The three players on the list, as nominations closed this week, who are automatics:
*David Robinson. MVP, Rookie of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year. Wooden Award at Navy. Two titles with the Spurs. Two Olympic gold medals and one bronze. One gold in the world championships. First- or second-team All-Defense eight times.
*Stockton. Arguably the greatest true point guard ever. Record holder for most assists and most steals. Two Olympic gold medals.
It gets interesting from there, as it usually does with the basketball Hall of Fame, a group that does not release the names of voters or balloting results. Only the process is known: nominees who get approval from five of seven members of the North American screening committee that handles the NBA candidates advance to be voted on by another 24-member committee in March. It requires 18 votes from that mix of former players, current league executives and media members to be inducted in Springfield, Mass.
Nelson, Chris Mullin, Lakers owner Jerry Buss, referee Dick Bavetta and former referee Darell Garretson are expected to receive serious consideration.
Among the other nominees: former Kings coach Dick Motta, Cynthia Cooper and Rebecca Lobo from the women's game, and, in a twist, the Chaminade team that shocked Ralph Sampson and No. 1 Virginia on Dec. 23, 1982, in one of the great upsets in college history. Only six teams are enshrined and most of those are for sustained contribution (the Harlem Globetrotters) or a monumental season (Texas Western's 1966 NCAA champions).