More than two years after the most extreme upheaval in Utah Jazz history, owner Greg Miller on Tuesday offered a glimpse into a fractured, frustrated Jazz locker room.
Within hours of a verbal confrontation on Feb. 9, 2011, between Jerry Sloan and point guard Deron Williams, Sloan was done as the head coach of the Jazz — "out of gas," according to Miller.
In his first detailed explanation of the night Sloan resigned, Miller, the CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, said Sloan and Williams argued over the final play of the first half in a home game against the Chicago Bulls.
"Jerry said, ‘If you’re going to change the play, it would be nice if you’d let the rest of the team know so we’ve got a chance at scoring,’ or something like that," Miller said. "He kind of reprimanded Deron and Deron said, ‘My bad.’ "
Miller added: "If he would have left it right there, Jerry may have never left."
Sloan resigned the next day at a news conference at the team’s practice facility, and then-assistant Tyrone Corbin was named his successor. Less than two weeks later, Williams was traded for a package that included Derrick Favors, a draft pick that turned into Enes Kanter and the No. 21 pick in Thursday’s draft.
While Williams will forever be linked to Sloan for his apparent role in the coach’s resignation, which became clearer with Miller’s account, the Jazz CEO said the two landmark events "were very separate."
Last week, Sloan rejoined the Jazz as a senior basketball adviser. Miller said he has spent time with Sloan in the last several weeks and has observed "that he is very glad to be back with us in that official capacity."
Miller recounted the story of Sloan’s resignation Thursday as part of a wide-ranging, nearly two-hour roundtable discussion with members of the Salt Lake City media at the LHM Group’s Sandy headquarters.
He said he wrote down the sequence of events and kept them in a journal, "because I knew this would be a pivotal point in the Jazz history and I wanted to get everything right."
Miller said he did not hear what Williams said to Sloan after "My bad," but that center Al Jefferson reached over to calm him down. Then, he said, Sloan walked away from the team, skipping the usual analysis from assistant coaches. He walked past Miller on his way to the coaches’ offices and, Miller recalled, Sloan said, "I’d like to have a word with you after the game."
"We all kind of stopped right there," Miller said, "and Deron Williams was right behind us and he said, ‘Yeah, and I want to be in the meeting, too.’ And then Jerry said, ‘Do you want me to just quit right now?’ "
Miller said he followed Sloan into his office and told him, "I want you to be very clear on one thing. If anything ever got to the point where we had to make the choice between a player and you as our head coach, we would side with you 100 times out of 100."
Following the Jazz’s 91-86 loss to the Bulls, Miller asked Sloan to stay through the season, and then the All-Star break.
"He said, ‘You’re not hearing me, I’m out of gas,’ " Miller recalled.
"I could have gotten down on my knees and groveled," he said. " I could have thrown a chair through the wall and said, ‘This isn’t going to happen, stay here.’ I just said, ‘Jerry I’ve got to respect your decision; if you’re done, you’re done. I’m not happy about it.’ "
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