Feb. 10 is a “day that will live in infamy” for many Jazz fans. Facebook and Twitter went wild and shock and disbelief soon turned to sadness and dismay. Sloan and his long-time assistant Phil Johnson were taken for granted and part of the fabric of Utah sports. Sloan and Johnson were the Utah Jazz more than Karl, John, or any other player who donned the uniform.
Perennially grumpy point guard Deron Williams was cast as the bad apple who spoiled the bushel. Sloan had put up with more than his share of prima donna players, but there is little doubt that one last run-in with Williams set the wheels of change in motion.
Williams never felt like he was one of ours the way Stockton and Malone did. While he was a great player, he wasn’t one to take a struggling team, put them on his back, and carry them to victory. He was quick to criticize teammates in the media which is hardly from the “How to Inspire Your Team” playbook.
It was doubtful that Williams would have re-upped with the Jazz and team owner, Greg Miller was smart to trade him for two solid players from New Jersey — Devin Harris – a former all-star — and Derrick Favors – last year’s No. 3 draft pick. Williams could have walked away at the end of the 2012 season and left the Jazz empty handed, much like Cleveland when LeBron headed south to Miami.
As an ardent Jerry Sloan fan, the departure of the coach was a blow. I went home and threw my D-Will jersey in the trash. I “de-friended” the Jazz on Facebook, and vowed to ignore the team until Williams was gone. Happily, it took less than two weeks. Hopefully the roster changes will give Ty Corbin the team he needs to enjoy a long and successful coaching career.
The shake up is probably just the way Sloan wanted to end his career. It is hard to imagine him taking a farewell tour around the league, ala Bobby Cox of the Atlanta Braves. Sloan would have cringed at the attention. Fans may feel cheated that we never got to wave a teary farewell to the NBA’s best coach, but he is probably happier riding off on his John Deere without all the fanfare.