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Wednesday, January 29
Updated: January 31, 1:27 PM ET
Sloan pushed referee Kirkland in first quarter

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was suspended seven games Wednesday by the NBA for shoving an official, a steep penalty that will keep him off the sidelines until the middle of February.

Sloan pushed referee Courtney Kirkland in the chest and was ejected during the first quarter of Utah's 102-92 victory at Sacramento on Tuesday night.

"Obviously his behavior was out of line, and the message is clear that that type of behavior cannot be tolerated," NBA vice president Stu Jackson said.

"The level of the suspension is in line with the behavior," Jackson said.

The suspension was one of the longest in recent years, including penalties against players who physically confronted referees.

Dennis Rodman was suspended for six games for headbutting an official in 1996, and Nick Van Exel drew a seven-game ban for forearming a referee into the scorer's table during that season.

Sloan was not available for comment before Utah's game against Portland on Wednesday night. He was expected to talk about the suspension Thursday. Jazz players expected a suspension, but not one this long because they felt the confrontation was two-sided.

"That's the reason this league is falling apart," center Greg Ostertag said. "Jerry protested the call and the official came and got in Jerry's face. I'm going to get fined if I keep talking."

Sloan's shove came after he argued vehemently that Kings guard Doug Christie had stepped out of bounds on the sideline near where Kirkland was standing. Sloan got down and put his hand on the spot where he thought Christie stepped out.

Sloan pushed Kirkland in the chest and was ejected. As Sloan was escorted away by arena security, he motioned for Kirkland to come toward him. It wasn't clear what Kirkland might have said to upset Sloan.

"I doubt you can get a reaction from someone that much without doing anything to him. Even Jerry," Jazz forward Matt Harpring said. "There's got to be an action to set off the reaction, you just don't go off without something happening."

Jackson said he did not know the length of the longest coaching suspensions in NBA history.

"You can't talk about historical precedent because each situation is considered on its own merits," Jackson said.

Sloan began serving his suspension Wednesday. He is ineligible to return until Utah's game Feb. 14 against Washington. Phil Johnson, a Jazz assistant for 15 seasons who took over for Sloan on Tuesday, will coach the Jazz throughout the suspension.

Sloan can still coach practices and shootarounds, but must be out of the arena two hours before a game.

"We're just going to have to go ahead. These are professional basketball players who have a lot of good experience," Johnson said. "Hopefully, we'll play well."

Sloan was fined $2,000 and suspended one game for bumping official Bob Delaney while arguing a non-call during a game against Phoenix in 1993.

In his 18th season as a head coach, his 15th with the Jazz, Sloan is one of only 10 coaches in NBA history with 800 victories.

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