Jerry Sloan’s 23 year run with the Utah Jazz ended abruptly this afternoon as he announced his retirement less than 24 hours after the Jazz lost their 10th game of the their last 14 91-86 to the Chicago Bulls.
There had been reports that his grip on the team had been slipping over the last few weeks as he and point guard Deron Williams grew tired of each other and it seemed that Williams was awaiting free agency rather than the next Jazz game. Things had gotten so bad that Williams was running his own plays rather than what Sloan was calling on the sidelines. With Sloan’s old-school way of handling things it was definitely a no-no.
Rather than continue to bicker with his star guard up until he becomes a free agent Sloan decided to step down and hand over the reins.
Or is it that simple?
Long a loyalist, Sloan was agitated that the Jazz let Carlos Boozer and Wesley Matthews walk off with no compensation and the acquisition of Al Jefferson doesn’t fit in with his tough defensive style (not saying that Jefferson isn’t a good defender or anything… maybe.). Combine that with Williams insubordination without consequence and Sloan might’ve been wondering for the first time in his lifetime with the Jazz why am I here?
Sloan is a tough guy, there’s no quit in him. Not since him and Norm Van Lier combined to form the toughest backcourt in the NBA in the 60’s on into the 70’s. His tough ways followed him into coaching where you can argue that there hasn’t been a tougher or more successful coach.
His 1221 wins rank third all-time and he’s the only coach in league history with 1000 wins with one team. He did it with consistency on the court with his game planning and making the most with his players as Utah couldn’t bring free agents in like teams in larger markets.
It worked for the 23 years that he was in Salt Lake City as he made the playoffs 22 times and two NBA Finals appearances losing twice to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls. However, in recent years his ways have seemed to annoy his teams rather than motivate them.
This is especially the case with Williams who Sloan said in previous interviews that he trusted more than John Stockton in running his offense at an early age, but they constantly butted heads and this year may have brought about a tipping point for both men.
Williams has seemed disinterested at times and rumors were rising that would leave town to possibly play in his home town of Dallas once he becomes a free agent. Williams wants a more up-tempo style of offense and is growing tired of Sloan’s pick and roll. That has lead Williams to lash out in changing the plays on the court and gain the ire of Coach Sloan.
At some point there was going to be a him or me situation with both men and depending on whom you talk to whether he was forced out or he quit, that man would be Sloan.
Sloan’s departure doesn’t guarantee that Williams will return to Utah however. The Jazz may have made a risky decision in deciding to keep a player that could skip town in a year and a half over a coach that has given you stability and success over 20+ years. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year and see if it was really was Sloan that was slowing down Williams or that Williams is really just biding his time.
Whatever the case Jerry Sloan is no longer the head man in Utah. That distinction belongs to former player under Sloan Tyrone Corbin. Sloan will leave the game as a great winner that never won the big prize. However, that shouldn’t take away nor distort his accomplishments as one of the great coaches in the history of the league.
His toughness may have rubbed people the wrong way, but that’s the way Sloan was as a player and as a coach. You can never say that the man quit but maybe he figured enough was enough. Hopefully the right decision was made by all sides and this day doesn’t came back to haunt any of them.