As most of you have already heard, Jerry Sloan, the head coach of the Utah Jazz for the last 23 years, has resigned today. Anytime a legend like Jerry Sloan leaves the franchise that he has become synonymous with, it is going to cause a huge stir in the organization’s community, in addition to the sports community at large. Jerry Sloan wasn’t just the head coach of the Utah Jazz, he WAS the Utah Jazz. He was also one of those faces that people always expected to see in sports.
From the time Sloan took over as the head coach in Utah until the day he resigned, he cemented his role as the architect of that team. His offense always ran like a well-oiled machine, and his team was always (minus the 04–05 and 05–06 campaigns) a threat to do some damage. His first 16 seasons with the Utah Jazz resulted in winning seasons and subsequently playoff appearances, which is something you rarely hear in modern-day professional sports. In fact, his 16 consecutive winning seasons is second all-time to Pat Riley (19).
Just to get a sense of how long and how good Sloan has been over the years, here are some other neat facts: (from NBA.com and Deseret News)
- Most wins with one franchise (1127)
- He and Red Auerbach are the only two coaches in NBA history to have 10 straight winning seasons with one team.
- Before his resignation today, he had the longest active tenure with one team in the NBA.
- Also before his resignation today, he was the longest tenured coach with the same franchise in all of major professional sports.
- There were 245 coaching changes in the NBA since Sloan took over in Utah.
- Ranks third all-time in wins as an NBA head coach with 1,221.
That’s enough with the historical significance. Let’s get to the reasoning behind Sloan’s resignation. Apparently there were some differences between All-Star point guard Deron Williams and himself, and they finally reached the boiling point. In the latest episode of the Sloan-Williams saga, Deron Williams called his own play instead of listening to Sloan’s call from the sidelines. This “play” not only caused the Jazz a loss, but it caused 3 former Jazz players (Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer) to get some sweet revenge on their former team.
Now, Sloan has not admitted to this being the reason for his resignation, as a true professional should, but with everything leading up to this, it sure seems to make a lot of sense. The Utah Jazz have certainly been a little bit “off” lately, which has caused many of the team’s news sources to question the team’s internal affairs. There have been a few rumors before today’s news broke, that spoke of the rift between Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan. And if you’ve been watching the Jazz ever since Deron Williams took over at point guard, you would have been able to sense that the rapport has not been right lately between the coach and the star point guard.
If the rumors are true, and I definitely believe that to be the case, then Deron Williams has to go down a few notches in my book. He has always been a guy I respected and rooted for, but when it comes to having insufferable differences with a real legend like Jerry Sloan, it makes me feel differently about him. Now don’t get me wrong, if Williams is able to take this team in a different direction (positive direction) based on his leadership, then maybe this was the right time for a coaching change to be made. After all, 23 years with the same thing has to turn sour eventually.
The one thing that really bothers me about this whole situation is how Jerry Sloan left the team that he created his legacy with. It happened way too abruptly and way too quietly. It was in the middle of a Thursday in February, with the winds blowing and NBA fans barely thinking about the playoffs. The All-Star Break had not yet approached, and the Jazz were still wondering if they were going to make a late-season surge to secure a high playoff seed. The situation just didn’t add up to the resignation of one of the greatest coaches of all-time.
Then again, the fact that this coach never won the award for Coach of the Year never made much sense either. Hey, maybe it was a fitting way to go after all.