It is the stuff of legend in Utah. Well, Sloan was already a legend there having coached the team for 22 seasons, through the John Stockton/Karl Malone years to two NBA Finals. He was a no-nonsense, intense, physical player and for a couple of decades his teams had followed in his footsteps.
The night Sloan quit in the middle of the season on Feb. 9, 2011 — having finally decided he was too old for this s*** with Deron Williams — is also of legend.
Veteran guard Raja Bell was on that team and recently told his version of the story.
This followed reasonably closely to owner Greg Miller’s version of events.
Williams was a strong-willed player, something that was true throughout his career (let’s just say he was not the most popular player in any locker room he was in). Sloan had a very specific style and way he wanted the team to play, one that had worked for decades, but Williams was not a fan. It cramped his style. Williams continually defied Sloan and changed plays on him, the two had clashed many times before, but on that February night Sloan finally had enough. Sloan quit, Miller convinced him to sleep on it, but the next morning Sloan stuck with his plan and walked away from the team.
Two weeks later, Williams was traded to the New Jersey Nets.
It has taken until recent years for the Jazz to put something together that makes them a threat again — it required Quin Snyder’s coaching, the development of Rudy Gobert into a defensive force (and one of the game’s top centers), and, this season, the emergence of Donovan Mitchell to make up for Gordon Hayward bolting town. The Jazz are there now.
But they will not forget THAT night.