I am like most Jazz fans when it comes to my feelings on the Jerry Sloan resignation. I was stunned and saddened by the news that he was resigning. I wanted him to show up to the press conference and tell us it was a big misunderstanding and that he would see us all at the Energy Solutions Arena on Friday. Watching Coach Sloan get teary-eyed made me do the same. In the 8 years I have dated and been married to my wife, she has never seen me cry. I don't do it, but I almost did yesterday. Watching Jerry Sloan cry was like finding out there is no Easter Bunny. And if I had to choose between having Jerry Sloan be my coach and having Deron Williams be the starting point guard for the Utah Jazz, I would take Jerry Sloan. But that isn't a real choice that I or any Jazz fan get to make. Jerry made that decision for himself already.
The thing about this situation is that it has become a Deron Williams or Jerry Sloan situation and that has lead to a lot of angry Jazz fans. Because Jerry Sloan means more to most of us than Deron Williams means to us, we feel like we lost out, or that somebody let us down. But the real truth here is that we have no sure idea, just pieces of information, assumptions to make and dots to connect. If any of you have followed the NBA for any amount of time, you have to know that you can't take very much from any information that cites "sources." And this story is laced with "sources."
One Jazz source told me, "Ninety-nine percent of the team loves Sloan. He didn't lose the team." -JA Adande, ESPN
Here's what sources say on that front: Williams was pushing behind the scenes to get more playing time for C.J. Miles and other younger players, while Sloan was committed to continue going into battle with veterans he trusted, including Raja Bell and Andrei Kirilenko. - Mitch Lawrence, NY Daily News
Even our own Brian T. Smith of the SL Tribune cited sources:
"Sources say building tension within Jazz, frustration with system, chemistry lead to Sloan stepping down"
"Sources say Sloan had lost team. One described situation as Deron Williams only staying if Sloan stepped down."
"Increasing feeling that Jazz's Williams would not return after next season if Sloan stuck around, sources say"
"Jazz's Sloan, Williams got into lengthy shouting match after practice during early season. First sign things weren't right, sources say."
Now I am not saying that if sources are cited that it is a false statement, but you also can't take them as solid truth. When Brian Smith says that "sources say Ty Corbin will be the next coach", we know that the source is right because we see Ty Corbin being named the head coach eventually. We will never have this other stuff confirmed. My question is: who are all these sources? Is it Kevin O'Connor or the ballboy? Is it Phil Johnson or Tom Nissalke? Is it Raja Bell or Donyell Marshall? If you can't put your name to a statement then it can't hold that much water. Look at the Melo trade discussions. It's all turned out to be completely false. Minnesota, NY and Denver won't be working together to make a trade. Sources can say anything they want to and don't have to be held accountable for it, because their name isn't attached. I would tend to lean towards saying that Brian Smith's sources are more credible than say, JA Adande's sources, but who knows? Let's take a look at what we definitely know, without sources.
1. Deron Williams has had some disparaging remarks about coach Sloan in post game interviews.
"That’s up to coach. That’s up to him. I don’t run practices. I’m just out here to try to keep guys together," said Williams, prior to a workout at the team practice facility. "We’ve got to do something. We’ve got to get better. There’s no secret about that. What needs to be done, I don’t know."
Williams suggested a group film session would be a start, allowing a team filled with new faces and in-progress change to spend time together while dissecting what has gone wrong.
"That would be nice," Williams said.
Williams said the Jazz do not watch game film as a unit, even though he has put in requests for the team to do so in the past. However, when asked whom he had run the idea by, Williams shut down.
Sloan said Jazz coaches had already watched film of the team’s second consecutive blowout loss, a 110-94 nationally televised defeat to Phoenix on Thursday. A group session was then planned before practice Friday.
"We’ll see what happens," Sloan said.
As for Williams’ assertion that Utah needs to simplify its offense, Sloan said it can easily be done. However, he pointed out that no matter how basic the Jazz’s system becomes — one currently based on screens, pick-and-roll sets and intricate reads and options — it will not make a difference unless Utah efficiently executes its game plan.
Williams on Sloan being reluctant to change the starting lineup: "It's never been his characteristics to change anything."
2. Jazz management tried to get Jerry to stay with the Jazz and they insist that Jerry wasn't pushed out by "players, management, or an aspiring coach."
Greg Miller also said that he "Threw everything we had at him to stay" and that "As long as I have anything to say about it, the coach of the Utah Jazz will have my full support."
3. Jerry Sloan is gone and Deron Williams is still here.
I'm not taking sides here and I am not trying to clear Deron Williams' name. He is sulky, moody, and sometimes he places his own shortcomings on others' shoulders. His treatment of Gordon Hayward in the second game of the season was uncalled for. But Deron Williams isn't the sole reason that Jerry Sloan is stepping down. Whatever happened on Wednesday night between Sloan and Williams may have even been the "straw that broke the camel's back," but every straw is equally guilty of adding to the load. Jerry Sloan is 68 years old and this day was closer to coming than not.
What I would tell Jazz fans is that blaming Deron Williams for the retirement of Jerry Sloan is both unfair and stupid. It's stupid because vilifying Deron Williams won't fix the situation. It won't bring Jerry back. It for sure won't make Deron want to stay in Utah past next season. We already lost a hall of fame coach, why would we want to lose an elite point guard? Make no mistake about it. Deron Williams is an elite point guard. He might be the best point guard in the league, but he is at least top 4. Could the Jazz turn around today and trade Deron for some terrific players? Absolutely. But Deron is our best player and we sacrificed a lot to get him. I am not going to pretend that this situation may not lead to an eventual trade, but that day is not today and it most likely isn't going to be in the next two weeks.
But more importantly, it is very unfair to blame Deron Williams for this. All we have is what we know. Making assumptions is unfair in any case, whether in the legal court or the court of public opinion.
"I would never force Coach Sloan out of Utah. He’s meant more to this town, this organization than I have by far. Not my place. If that was the case I would just say I wanted out." That is what Deron Williams told David Locke on 1320 KFAN last night. It makes sense and you have to believe him. If Deron ever said the words, "If Jerry stays, I want to be traded" then I would be presenting a much different case now. But from what we know, he never said that. All we know is that they argued about how to make the team better and didn't always see eye to eye...and that they both desperately wanted to win a championship.
But here is a final point I would like to make. Can you really blame Deron Williams for not agreeing with Jerry Sloan? Before you answer that, think about the last time you disagreed with Jerry Sloan on something he did. Was it a week ago? Two days ago? I love Jerry Sloan and I would wish him back to the sidelines right now if I could. But he has some weaknesses in his decision making and it sounds like many of those were at the center of the arguments with Deron. How many of you have wondered why our best lineup of Deron, CJ, AK, Millsap and Jefferson hasn't been used more than 90 minutes this season? How many of you have wondered why guys like Ronnie Price, Matt Harpring, and Jarron Collins have received so much playing time over the years? Did you ever wonder why Sloan would never bench a player for lack of hustle? I know that I, for one, can't comprehend why the Jazz don't watch more game film. You have to watch game film and you have to use technology and statistics to understand your team these days. I think that may be one aspect where the game has passed Jerry up. I love Jerry Sloan and I love the fact that he believes hard work in any situation will see you through. But sometimes your best effort won't do any good, if you aren't in a winning position. Jerry can frustrate the hell out of us fans sometimes and I know that it wouldn't be any different for Deron Williams who wants to win as much as we do.
So go ahead and blame Deron Williams. But just know that if you are upset with Deron Williams, you don't have the facts, you would be alienating the best thing the Jazz have left, and you would be a hypocrite.
After all, you would be whining and taking an unbending stance on a player for being whiny and taking an unbending stance.
You can email clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter: @jazzingitup