The former Bull player and longest tenured coach in the four major sports will resign on Thursday in the middle of his 23rd season as head coach of the Jazz. He and Deron Williams reportedly had an argument at halftime on Wednesday that was a nail in the coffin to ending their professional relationship.
Jerry Sloan will step down as head coach of the Utah Jazz (31-23) on Thursday after 23 seasons at the helm, the Deseret News is reporting. This comes the week he signed a one-year contract extension, a day after a tight loss to the Bulls, and a long conversation with the general manager that extraordinarily delayed his post-game press conference.
Wednesday's loss put them 3.5 games behind the Thunder at second in the division. Even were they to win the division, there's no reasonable mind considering the Jazz a contender for the conference title, let alone the championship this season. Completely coincidentally, Sloan's resignation marks the second coach in a matter of weeks whose last game was a loss to the Bulls.
Tyrone Corbin, a former DePaul star and Jazz player under Sloan, will be announced to take over the head coaching job at a press conference Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m. CST. Corbin's job title will reportedly not carry the "interim" tag, as he will be announced as the permanent replacement, David Aldridge of NBA.com tweeted.
'Clash' with the star
There's varying speculation that Sloan was asked to resign in order to keep Deron Williams with the team, as his contract expired after the 2011-12 season and that he's "been at odds with management for a while," Royce Young wrote Thursday at CBSSports.com. The former seems more accurate, Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc Spears reported Thursday at Yahoo! Sports [which has been revised since quoting this excerpt]:
Sloan's relationship with point guard Deron Williams had grown progressively worse over the course of the season, league sources said, and the coach had tired of dealing with the team's best player. The frustration escalated on Wednesday night when Sloan and Williams clashed in the locker room at halftime.
"He decided right there in halftime that he was done," a league source told Yahoo! Sports. "He felt like ownership was listening more to Williams than they were to him anymore. He was done."
One source said Sloan had become tired of Williams "blaming everything on everyone else." Still, Williams, who can become a free agent in the summer of 2012, has remained the Jazz's best and most consistent player after the departure of several key teammates. Williams has always had a reputation for wanting to win badly and being a strong leader.
Williams and Sloan reportedly had a "blowup" at halftime because Williams "ran [a] different play than play called on sideline by Sloan," Marc Stein of ESPN tweeted, adding later: "it was Sloan who essentially said 'me or him.' "
At the beginning of the recent Jazz shortfalls, Jason Crannell wrote at the NBA.com "UtahJazz360" blog of an interview with The Salt Lake City Tribune: "When a reporter asked if the Jazz needed to tweak the offense, Deron
replied in a sarcastic manner: 'We've been running the same plays for 23
years, why change now?' "
Congratulations, D-Will! You've officially arrived. It's indisputable that you are one of the three elite point guards in the NBA and now, you've gotten your head coach to leave. The most difficult head coach to get out of the way in all of professional sports.
Michael Jordan got Doug Collins fired, Magic Johnson got Paul Westhead fired, and LeBron James got Mike Brown canned immediately before LeBron voluntarily left. Safe to say that Williams has the largest antlers on his wall.
"But the question is, how in the world does Williams stay if his legacy is pushing out Jerry Sloan?" Young adds to all of this. The feeling among the fans has to be confusion. They don't want to boo their own, but Williams legacy will be just this locally and that's not a good one. Williams drove Sloan away; will the fans now push away their star?
Retiring or resigning?
Including his first head coaching tenure with the Bulls, Sloan's the third-winningest coach in NBA history with a 1,221-803 (.603) record. He is the only coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team. For the past decade, the running joke has been the "death, taxes, and the Jazz in the playoffs" were axiomatic after he continued to succeed, despite Karl Malone's departure and John Stockton's retirement.
He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009. A banner at the rafters of the United Center bears Sloan's #4, retired in honor of his career as a Bulls player.
I hope this isn't the last we see of the 68-year-old basketball guru, but with Phil Jackson's expected retirement after the season, I hope even more the Lakers don't entice him there.
EDIT: Brian Smith, the great Jazz beat reporter with the SLC Trib, tweeted additions to the conflict between Williams and Sloan, as well as other players:
Jazz's Sloan, Williams got into lengthy shouting match after practice during early season. First sign things weren't right, sources say.
To be clear: Issues with Sloan weren't just with Williams. Multiple key players have been frustrated with Sloan.