As has been discussed everywhere, Jerry Sloan resigned as Utah Jazz head coach Thursday after 23 years as a franchise mainstay. It was an emotional moment, even more so than it may have been otherwise if Sloan had been pushed about by a group of disgruntled players led by star point guard Deron Williams(notes). That rift hasn't been confirmed by either party, but it's been rumored by enough sources to feel like the untold story of this whole ordeal.
Again, though, neither Sloan nor Williams will talk badly about each other in public, which either confirms or squashes the rumors depending on your point of view. Both even separately went on Salt Lake City's KFAN Thursday to clear everything up. From Sports Radio Interviews, let's look at what Sloan had to say first:
Everyone is looking for that reason (why you stepped down):
"That's what happens with anything, just like a marriage, they're looking to what broke your heart or whatever. But basketball goes on."
On if his relationship with Deron Williams had anything to do with it:
"No I don't think so. I've had run ins with Deron before, and I had run ins with Karl and with John. Life goes on. They've got a job to do, I've got a job to do. And it's the only thing I know how to do."
And now Williams, after the jump:
Whether there's truth to the report that he went to the front office and said he wouldn't re-sign if Sloan were the head coach:
"That's not true, not true. I would never push Coach Sloan out of town. He's meant more to this town and to this organization than I have. By far. It's one of those things where I would have said I wanted out before it would come to that."
Whether it's true that he and Sloan almost came to blows with one another during halftime the other night:
"We just had a disagreement. We've had worse ones before, I've seen him have worse ones with other players. It's just, Jerry is very fiery, I guess that's the word to use, and I am too. So I guess we clashed on some things."
Williams had much more to say, including some very kind words about what Sloan meant to his development as a player. It's worth taking a look at the rest of the transcripts, because both are very kind and generous in these interviews.
Still, there's a nagging suspicion that Sloan and Williams are just playing nice for the press, whereas in private both are actually glad to be rid of each other. If this is the case, it's important to remember here that both have an interest in making it seem like Sloan left of his own accord. For Sloan, he has to look like the game hadn't passed him by. Williams, on the other hand, just has to show that he didn't push out a legend so that an entire state doesn't turn on him. Both have reputations worthy of being upheld, and they're going to try their hardest to do so.
Perhaps the truth will come out eventually, if it hasn't already, and we'll look back on these media comments as a bunch of fruitless spin. But it's important to remember that short-term public opinion sometimes matters as much as it does in the long term, especially for a player like Williams who still has to face his fanbase and try to get his team into the playoffs.
Again, it's possible that Sloan really did just leave the job because he thought it was time. But even if he was at odds with Williams, both figures realize that it behooves them to play nice right now. It's their final partnership, just not one that happens on the basketball court.
- Jerry Sloan