The Utah Jazz’s ownership didn’t want to lose its superstar, so it jettisoned its icon.
And that’s not going to work.
It’s not as simple as point guard Deron Williams wanted Jerry Sloan gone so the Utah Jazz kicked the old coach out the door to make him happy. It’s much messier than that and Sloan decided to retire because he saw the battle that was ahead. He may not have had the energy for one more fight. But that is the basic motivations here, according to multiple reports.
Wednesday night, at halftime of the Jazz’s loss to the Chicago Bulls, Sloan and Williams got into a heated argument as Williams chafed against the restraints of the flex offense, according to Yahoo. This was the latest in a long line of conflicts the two had over the years and things reportedly escalated this season when Williams had to run in the system without talents around him like Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Wes Mathews. Through his continued pushing, Sloan had lost the team, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
After Wednesday’s game the Sloan/Williams argument spilled into a discussion in the coach’s office including owner Greg Miller and GM Kevin O’Conner.
It was there that Sloan realized a lesson that all NBA coaches know but Sloan seemed to be above — star players have the real power.
It felt like it was coming down to Williams or Sloan having to go, and Williams was going to win. So Sloan decided to walk away with his dignity intact.
There are only a handful of great talents and if those players want changes in an organization — or to have the run of it the way LeBron James did in Cleveland — they often get their way. This is nothing new, Magic Johnson got Paul Westhead fired two decades ago. The supply of game-changing players is smaller than the supply of coaches — and those players generate a lot more money for the organization. So guess who wins those clashes?
Utah had seemed different. Sloan had been the head coach for 23 years and if the late Larry Miller, father of current owner Greg, were still alive this might have come out differently. But maybe not, because the Jazz have one larger concern out there:
Williams can become a free agent in the summer of 2012. He can opt out after next season.
That is what Jazz management feared more than anything. More than losing Sloan. Williams is the face of the franchise, the guy that sells the tickets and the jerseys, the reason this team is 31-23 and not 23-31 (or worse). He is one of the game’s elite point guards.
Utah can’t afford to lose him, so they started doing what they thought would make Williams happy. That led Jerry Sloan to decide he needed to walk away.
Now the offense will change (not totally this season, it’s hard to make drastic shifts midseason). Williams will get the freedom on the court he craves and a coach that will tailor things more to him.
And it will not work. Williams will still leave. Former Jazz beat writer Ross Siler understands the logic and explained why on twitter.
Deron’s gone. There’s a zero percent chance he stays in Utah if his legacy is Jerry’s departure.
He does not want to be the guy that pushed Sloan out of the franchise, whether it is true or not, fair or not. Sloan an icon and in Utah he is adored. Plus, a dramatic shift in system will necessitate new players, more time to mesh and become a unit. The Jazz will win less, not more — say what you want about Sloan’s system, he got the most out of his players.
It may be destined for failure, but the Jazz learned from the LeBron James situation, where the team fired coach Mike Brown after the season. Utah wanted to be more proactive in making changes for their superstar. But this all makes them look a little desperate and a little unstable. Two things that will not keep Williams in house.
Two things Jerry Sloan never was.