Utah Jazz Truth: Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan Drama Doesn't Matter Anymore
Everybody wants to know exactly what happened to cause Jerry Sloan's sudden resignation from the Utah Jazz.
Truth. Everybody wants it, but only the exclusive have access to first-hand information.
And after collecting and looking for the most sellable and persuasive data, the truth comes out. It wades through multiple filters, perspectives and eventually falls into the hands of those dying for it.
So what can be more relative and contextual than information coming from the media? After all, isn't it their job to predict what other predictors are predicting, so that they can release the most speculative possibilities first?
It is no longer the sports media's job to find truth or present information neutrally. The journalist's new job is to ask questions that force players, coaches or executives to answer ambiguously. The truth becomes interpretable and watered down into possibilities.
And after Jerry Sloan made his announcement, they served up drama because there was no other way.
Now, it's been cooked and burnt from every angle. The extremes have been laid out and the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
What We Really Know: 2 Parts
Williams and Sloan had an argument during halftime of a home game against the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 9.
There's a lot of debate as to the extent of the argument and if it stemmed from a play that Williams refused to run after Sloan made a call.
There's no proof of Williams not running the play. Some saw it and others didn't.
And, let's say that it is accurate. Without trying to trivialize it too much, not running a play isn't enough to force Jerry Sloan to leave. It's one play versus 23 years.
But a happening occurred in the locker room, and that is indisputable. There was an argument. Any other story that stems from the locker room incident is debatable.
After the Bulls defeated the Jazz, Sloan had a closed-door meeting with GM Kevin O'Connor for nearly a half-hour. The very next day Sloan resigned.
What was said during the meeting with Sloan and O'Connor has never been released. Speculation has come from all over the place and corners of the earth that have never seen light.
But that's it. Speculation.
Unless O'Connor and Sloan have cross-referenced interviews with the media—something that will never happen—we won't really ever know what happened or what was said.
From the combination of the argument and the meeting two extremes emerged:
Deron Williams pushed Jerry Sloan out of Utah either by request or indirectly.
Sloan wanted to punish Williams for the play that wasn't run or for the argument in the locker room, maybe even both.
And when he brought this issue up to Kevin O'Connor after the Bulls game, his general manager refused to back him up on it. Let's face it, the Jazz are struggling. If Williams sits games, how will that help the Jazz win?
The longtime coached felt betrayed by management and decided enough is enough. So he resigned.
Why It's Believable
Personal friend of Jerry Sloan and longtime owner of the Utah Jazz Larry Miller died in February of 2009.
The link between Sloan's tenure in Utah is Miller. He believed that the system was more important than the players, so he stuck by Sloan's side through thick and thin. Though, it was mostly always thick.
When his son Greg Miller took over, there was a lot of speculation that the franchise could be taking a turn. Larry's son didn't have the faith of the fans and most believed that he really didn't care about Utah Jazz basketball.
And with the forming of three-headed monsters in Boston and Miami, Deron Williams possibly used the opportunity to sit down with Miller and convince him that the NBA is a player's league, and that the players were having a difficult time with Sloan's strict regiment.
Williams could have seen Sloan as being a marketing problem. Superstars don't want to deal with disciplinarians in the NBA where it's the players who make the game.
Miller bought Williams' proposal and waited for his opportunity.
Jerry Sloan was tired. His energy—gone.
Those are the words he used to describe how he was feeling.
A longtime fighter decided to stop coaching because the exhaustion of 23 years was too much for him. And for the first time in his entire life, the toughest of tough-guys thought that the best route was to quit.
"Quit" became part of Jerry Sloan's personal diction.
Why It's Believable
Sloan began his NBA journey in 1965.
Not one current NBA player was born when he entered the NBA. Shaquille O'Neal, the oldest player in the NBA, wouldn't be born for an additional seven years.
In fact, not even the Chicago Bulls were born yet.
He played in the NBA for 10 years and coached for an additional 26. He spent his NBA career in four different major cities across the United States.
Sloan was around for over half of the NBA's entire existence.
Also, Sloan was an honest man. Nobody would argue otherwise.
He didn't sugar-coat his time with the media. Sometimes he spoke in what seemed to be riddles, but he was an old-fashioned man.
If you asked him about how to get his team to rebound better, he'd respond with a short sentence about "hustle."
Then he'd turn around and say something like, "But talking about it will get you a toothpick and a glass of water when you're hungry. Sooner or later, you get sick of being punched in the nose."
So when he repeatedly says time and again that he may one day wake up and decide it's time to walk away, and then he actually does it, it sounds much more like Jerry Sloan than the national media may believe.
Both Extremes Are Bunk
It Doesn't Make Sense for Williams
The strength between Sloan and the Miller family was revealed during the press conference. It may not have been as strong as it was when Larry was alive, but those tears were real.
It's ridiculous to believe that Deron Williams even attempted to push Sloan out of his own city and against a management that has given Sloan and the Jazz legs, especially with Williams' player-option in 2012.
Williams referred to his 2012 contract when he was asked about Ronnie Brewer being traded last year. He felt insecure with management's direction and that's why he only signed a three-year deal.
His time, if he wanted, was ticking down in Utah. He wouldn't have ever believed that Sloan's would be up before his.
Sloan's A Fighter
Anyone who believes that Jerry Sloan was a tough-guy cannot also believe that he quit because of the fighting with Deron Williams.
The two—quitter and fighter—are mutually exclusive, especially for Coach Sloan.
The NBA is the toughest professional league on the planet for coaches, and Sloan has coached stronger personalities than Williams. The success that Utah has experienced over the last two-plus decades has been a testament to Sloan's strength and willingness to repeatedly fight.
The competitive spirit, if you will, was also a good thing for Sloan and his top players. It is for all coaches as long as it doesn't come down to incompatibility. And it's difficult to buy that it got that far over a single play, or a multitude of plays through a single season.
Both Sloan and Williams have praised the other's combativeness for years. There was a mutual respect between the two, even if it wasn't peaking when their latest argument took place or at all during the season.
They were fighting because they both wanted what was best for the team.
Truth: They Were Both Frustrated For Good Reason
During the 2006-2007 season, the Utah Jazz visited the Western Conference Finals but lost to the San Antonio Spurs.
Here are some names from that roster: Matt Harpring, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer, Mehmet Okur, Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer and C.J. Miles.
And here's what happened from the beginning of last year:
Harpring retired after being traded with rookie Eric Maynor to the Oklahoma City Thunder to clear up cap space. Maynor has developed into a cheap, solid backup for Russell Westbrook.
GM Kevin O'Connor traded Ronnie Brewer at the end of last year's trade deadline when the Jazz were making a push. The move was to save money. There wasn't another reason other than it made financial sense to ditch him, even though Brewer was always among the leaders in field goal percentage for a guard and had uncanny chemistry with Williams.
Then, the undrafted gem Wesley Matthews snuck away to Portland over the summer. Then Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver—who set a three-point shooting record last year—bolted for Chicago without barely even hearing an offer from the Jazz.
Sloan was upset. Williams was upset.
Four major players from last season's team are with the Jazz this year, and Mehmet Okur has been injured since the season began, leaving the team with three of the larger pieces.
For years analysts constantly gave the Jazz the "good" label but claimed that they were missing a piece.
Wesley Matthews emerged as that piece because of Utah's late-season injuries last year. He became a much more valuable piece than originally anticipated. Unfortunately they weren't able to use him when at full strength.
Kevin O'Connor batted zero this summer but walked to first once with Gordon Hayward, who was left stranded on base.
The team was there and growing. Management wasn't willing to commit to winning when it had the chance.
Sloan and Williams felt the same about it. But the major difference is that Sloan had been around the block. He had experienced the frustrations of small-market basketball and, more importantly, he had accepted them.
The Resulting Truth
Both Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan looked for answers to their frustrations.
And there's some truth to the extremes, but they are not the end-all or be-all of what happened, especially in the contexts that the media put them in. Williams didn't push Sloan out, and Sloan didn't quit because he was simply tired.
Williams did feel that Sloan's system had become predictable and that he wasn't adjusting enough. And, to a degree, Williams may have been right. It seemed like teams were more prepared for Utah's schemes than ever before.
Sloan had his points too. Players could make harder cuts to the basket and set better screens. They could have upped their physicality to a different degree, to a Jazz-like pedigree of toughness that was clearly lacking.
Both were probably right in a strange combination.
Is it so unbelievable to think that Sloan could have finally become too tired and stone-like that he refused to adjust to an ever-evolving game? Absolutely. Could that have made it more difficult to coach in a player-pampered league and with so many new faces on the team? Yes.
And in honesty, Sloan looked tired and he was off from his normal self.
Through the 54 games that Sloan coached this year, he received only two technicals. In most other seasons, he would have received a pair in a couple games. That's far from a small change. In fact, it's a drastic numerical gap in personality for a guy who has recorded over 400 T's in his career.
So, it is believable that Sloan's tiredness was true—to a degree.
Williams' answer to his frustrations was in immediate change, but not necessarily in the form of Sloan. He wanted the team to be shaken up a little bit by Sloan but not enough to go to management and give them a me-or-him ultimatum.
Sloan's answers to his frustrations was recognition and patience. All of a sudden he was coaching a rebuilding team that was good enough to make the playoffs but not great enough to push for the NBA Finals.
Maybe, just maybe, Sloan was tired of management leaving him with a good, but not great, team. And if he was losing the faith of his best player, while also knowing his management, maybe he was getting that deja vu experience of disappointment.
Maybe at the age of 68, Sloan was too tired to rebuild one last time.
The Truth Doesn't Matter Anymore
The Utah Jazz are 31-26.
They're far from the team that was once 15-5 and beating the Miami Heat with miracles.
And what's worse? They've lost so much ground for a team that was competing for home-court advantage in the West. Now, they're competing for the eighth seed.
Ty Corbin is 0-3 to start his coaching career, with back-to-back-to-back losses against some of the worst defensive teams the NBA has. And the NBA schedule never ceases.
The Memphis Grizzlies are looking for a playoff berth, the Phoenix Suns are pushing and the Jazz are slipping.
Truth? The truth is that the Jazz need to play better basketball to have a chance at the playoffs. The truth is that they have an All-Star point guard and some consider him to be the best in the game. The truth is that he's the matrix between the Jazz and relevancy.
Drama is the engine that is pushing the wheels down the hill. Eventually the cart will rest or crash.
The truth of the past pales to the truth of the present. Where the Jazz are is more important than where they were. Where they are going is more important than where they are.
"Sorrow is properly that state of mind in which our desires are fixed upon the past, without looking forward to the future, an incessant wish that something were otherwise than it has been, a tormenting and harassing want of some enjoyment or possession which we have lost, and which no endeavours can possibly regain." - Samuel Johnson, 1750