Friday night, for the first time since the Regan administration, Jerry Sloan is going to have a night off on the night of a Utah Jazz game. What is he going to do?
“I’ll be like a dizzy duck,” he said, a classically homespun like from Sloan at his exit press conference Thursday afternoon.
Thursday afternoon Jerry Sloan officially resigned as the head coach of the Utah Jazz, a job he has held since 1988 (and he was with the team as an assistant before that). Lead assistant Phil Johnson also stepped down. This was clearly an emotional time for the old-school coach known for being a hard ass.
“This is a little bit tougher than I thought it would be…” Sloan said. “The fans and this organization have been second to none.”
Sloan, 68, said he was stepping away and would not be taking a coaching job with another franchise.
When asked about his reasons Sloan came off as both forthright and protecting the locker room. Classic and classy, as one would expect of Sloan.
When asked about a confrontation with Deron Williams last night and any role that and other conflicts may have played, Sloan said he’s had confrontations with players since he started coaching and that was not the motivation for him to retire. Nor was it this team tuning him out, he said.
“I’ve never had a team that did everything I wanted it to on the court,” Sloan said. “That’s means the good teams and some of the teams that weren’t very good. I don’t think any coach bats 100 percent with his team day in and day out. And I don’t think it’s wrong for you wanting them to play that way. Sometimes that’s misleading I think with some players.”
Owner Greg Miller emphasized that this was Sloan’s decision alone, that no player or front office person was pushing him out.
“Up until about 10 minutes ago, we tried to talk Jerry and Phil out of leaving,” Miller said.
Being pushed out and Sloan deciding to walk away because he could read the writing on the wall and did not have the energy for another fight are two different things. When pressed as to why he retired midseason, Sloan continually came back to feeling like he just didn’t have the energy
“My time is up and I’d like to move on….” Sloan said, “I’ve always thought about when am I going to retire, how is that going to happen. There’s always a feeling that hits you, it seems to me, that’s a little bit similar to the one I had when I got fired. So, I had a feeling it was time for me to move on.”
At the same press conference, Ty Corbin was introduced as the new Jazz head coach. There is no interim attached to his title. But Corbin tried to deflect the moment.
“For me this is a bittersweet moment….” Corbin said. “I had no idea going into shootaround yesterday, the game last night and the shootaround today that Jerry and Phil would be leaving us.”
Praise has started to pour in from Sloan, including from NBA Commissioner David Stern.
“Few people have epitomized all the positives of team sports more than Jerry Sloan. A basketball lifer, Jerry was as relentless in his will to win on the sidelines for the Utah Jazz as he was as an All-Star guard for the Chicago Bulls. In over two decades as a coach, he taught his players that nothing was more important than the team. His most impressive qualities were his leadership and his extraordinary ability to encourage his players to subjugate their individual games for the benefit of the whole. Two trips to The Finals and over 1,200 regular-season victories more than validate his philosophy. Jerry moves on having established himself as one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history. I and the rest of the NBA family wish him great success and happiness as he moves to the next chapter of his life.”