HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Nearly every theory about Jerry Sloan‘s abrupt departure as coach of the Utah Jazz centers on the same fractured relationship, the one between Sloan and All-Star point guard Deron Williams.
The general theme being Sloan had grown tired of his repeated clashes with Williams and finally, after one too many, the longest-tenured coach in any of the major professional sports had simply had enough.
Williams, as you might imagine, has become the popular fall guy in this story. Here we have another young superstar running off the beloved old coach … except Williams isn’t accepting that role without a fight.
He denied going to Jazz management and giving them a “him-or-me” ultimatum about Sloan.
“That’s not true. Not true. I would never force coach Sloan out of Utah, he’s meant more to this town, to this organization than I have, by far,” Williams told my main man David Locke in an exclusive interview on KFAN 1320 AM late Thursday, after Sloan had already said his public goodbyes. “[It's] not my place. If that was the case, I would just say I wanted out before it would come to that.”
Williams dismissed media reports (and certain media members) for cooking up stories about a perceived rift between him and Sloan, the only NBA coach he’s ever played for until he takes to the floor today for Ty Corbin. The reality, Williams insists, is that he and Sloan didn’t bicker any more or less than most coaches and stars. And while their relationship was far from warm and fuzzy all the time, they were not at each others’ throats on a regular basis either.
And this notion that a blow up between he and Sloan precipitated Thursday’s resignation, is not going fly with Williams:
“We just had a disagreement. We’ve had them before, we’ve had worse ones,” Williams said. “I’ve seen him have worse ones with other players. Jerry is very fiery, I guess that’s the word to use. I am too. Sometimes we clash on things … It’s been pretty much the same, we get along a lot, we disagree sometimes, but we both want to win. It has been a frustrating year. We felt we were supposed to be a little better than we have been. I’ve been lucky. Not many people get to come into the league and play for a Hall of Fame coach for the first six years. Chance to learn from one of the best. I’ve won a lot of basketball games because of Coach Sloan.”
Folks will choose to believe whatever they want. And you can be sure that Williams, despite his denials to the contrary, will own the title of the man who ran off a coaching legend for the foreseeable future.
The perception of Sloan v. Williams is much more intriguing than whatever the reality of their situation really was. Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know the whole truth.