When Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned in the middle of the season in 2011, it was seen as the ultimate example of a team choosing a player over a coach. Sloan had clashed with point guard Deron Williams, then the Jazz’s star player, less than 24 hours earlier during halftime of a game, so it was an understandable conclusion.
That storyline got trickier later that season, when the Jazz traded Williams to the Nets for a package that included Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and a draft pick that became Enes Kanter. Suddenly, the Jazz had neither their best player nor the greatest coach in the franchise’s history.
With Sloan, 71, back with the team in an official capacity as a senior adviser, the Jazz hosted a roundtable discussion with members of the Salt Lake City media Tuesday to clear the record. Jazz CEO Greg Miller gave details of the disagreement between Sloan and Williams for the first time and assured reporters that the team always planned to back Sloan over any player. Sloan told Miller he was simply “out of gas.”
“I could have gotten down on my knees and groveled,” Miller told reporters. “I could have thrown a chair through the wall and said, ‘This isn’t going to happen. Stay here.’ I just said, ‘Jerry, I’ve got to respect your decision. If you’re done, you’re done. I’m not happy about it.’”
Sloan coached the Jazz for 23 seasons. At the time of his resignation, he was the longest-tenured active coach in major North American sports. He will now advise coach Tyrone Corbin and general manager Dennis Lindsey on basketball-related matters.