After 23 seasons at his post, Jerry Sloan is no longer the coach of the Utah Jazz.
And despite reports to the contrary, Deron Williams had nothing to do with it.
So said Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor on Thursday, following a press conference in which the team announced Sloan’s resignation, as well as the hiring of assistant coach Tyrone Corbin as his replacement.
There are no “coach killers” on the Jazz roster, O’Connor said.
“That’s not fair to Deron,” he added. “There’s never been an issue with a player coming to us – any player – (refusing to play for Sloan).
“That’s really unfair to Deron. I don’t him to get labeled with that because it’s not correct.”
Sloan and longtime assistant coach Phil Johnson resigned Thursday, hours after the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls.
Williams struggled in the final minutes of the game, committing two key turnovers in the closing minutes.
A report on Yahoo!Sports said Sloan stepped down because of repeated clashes with Williams this season and a feeling he’d been undermined by team ownership.
The report also indicated Sloan and Williams “clashed” during halftime of Wednesday’s game.
A halftime confrontation definitely occurred, but Sloan said those things happen all the time in basketball.
“I’ve had confrontations with players since I’ve been in the league,” he said. “I’ve coached a number of guys I’ve had confrontations with but those things are minor as far as trying to go forward.”
When asked if something occurred Wednesday night that led to Sloan’s decision to step down, Johnson said, no, there wasn’t.
“No, it’s just time,” he said. “I know he’s been thinking about it. We would discuss it sometimes. It’s just time.”
Williams did not attend Thursday’s press conference, but did speak to local radio station 1320-KFAN afterward.
“I would never force coach Sloan out of Utah,” Williams said. “He’s meant more to this town, more to this organization than I have by far. I would have asked out of Utah first.”
Bottom line: Williams and Sloan have clashed on more than one occasion this season, and there was definitely an uncomfortable vibe in the Jazz locker room following Wednesday’s loss.
Something definitely happened, that much we know. What we don’t know is how it fits in the context of the entire season and the Jazz’s recent struggles.