Utah Jazz Seemingly Choosing Deron Williams Over Coach Jerry Sloan
Things didn’t seem right Wednesday night after Utah’s home loss to Chicago 91-86. The Jazz dropped to 31-23 with the loss, while point guard Deron Williams had just 11 points and a game-high five turnovers. We knew something was wrong after the game because Jazz beat reporter Brian Smith was tweeting about a meeting Sloan was having with the team’s GM. This particular tweet suggested something wasn’t right: “Jazz’s Sloan appeared shaken up after game. Said he had a conversation with GM O’Connor. Would not discuss it.”
Sloan did say on Wednesday that we would find out Thursday what happened in the meeting, and we did when we heard that Sloan would be resigning. That obviously is code for “being forced out” as head coach of the Jazz.
Sloan led Utah for 23 years and was the longest-tenured coach in the NBA by far. It appears as if the reason for his dismissal as the team’s head coach is a year-long feud brewing with point guard Deron Williams.
Sloan has battled with All-Star guard Deron Williams all season, multiple sources said, and had lost the trust of the team. Williams and Sloan have had at least three altercations, while many players questioned Sloan’s handling of everything from playing time and rotational decisions to his insistence on sticking with his revered offensive system. Sources said there has been a growing feeling within the organization that Williams would leave Utah following the 2011-12 season if Sloan did not step down.
A team being forced to choose the star player over the coach is a frequent occurrence in the NBA. With only five players on the floor at a time (compared to baseball with nine or football with 11), star players are more powerful in basketball than other sports. In almost every case, pleasing the star player is more important than a coach; if the coach can’t keep the player happy, then they’ll find someone who will. That’s just the way it goes. The surprise is that Sloan was able to last almost 23 seasons on the job without anything like this happening.