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Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011

Sloan steps down after 23 years as coach of Jazz

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan stepped down Thursday after 23 seasons and 1,127 wins at the helm of the Utah Jazz, saying he simply ran out of energy to coach anymore.

News photo
Time to go: Jerry Sloan resigned as coach of the Utah Jazz on Thursday after 23 seasons at the helm. AP PHOTO

"I had a feeling this time was the time to move on," an emotional Sloan said during a Thursday news conference. "(That's) a long time to be in one organization. Again, I've been blessed. Today is a new day. When I get this over with, I'll feel better. My time is up and it's time to move on."

Sloan ranks third all time in NBA wins (1,221) behind Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332). He is the only coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team, a feat he accomplished Nov. 7, 2008, against Oklahoma City. Sloan's other wins came with the Chicago Bulls from 1979 to 1982.

Longtime assistant Phil Johnson also resigned, surprising even Sloan during their post-game chat Wednesday night with general manager Kevin O'Connor.

"I came with him and I'll leave with him," the 69-year-old Johnson said Thursday.

The two men agreed to sleep on their decisions Wednesday night at the request of team owners and O'Connor, who said he "begged" Sloan not to resign.

Nothing changed in the morning and Sloan reported sleeping better than he has in six weeks.

Asked what he'll do now, he didn't know, and said he expected to be a "dizzy duck" for a while.

Jazz CEO Greg Miller also said he tried to talk Sloan out of retiring.

"I want to make it clear that nobody pushed Jerry or Phil out," Miller said. "I loved and respected Jerry for as long as I can remember . . . I will miss him but benefit from the things he taught me for the rest of my life."

Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin was hired as the new coach, and team officials made it clear there is no "interim" tag next to his name.

O'Connor also called false that reports that star guard Deron Williams told the team it was "me or (Sloan)."

"That's not fair to Deron," O'Connor said. "That puts him in such a bad light. Whoever started that rumor is either uninformed or a liar. I would say the latter."

Williams told 1320-KFAN radio that he and Sloan clashed at halftime Wednesday, but insisted there is no truth to the rumors that he forced the Hall of Fame coach out.

"We had a disagreement," Williams told the station. "I've seen him have worse ones with other players. Jerry's very fiery. I am, too. Sometimes we clash on things."

"I would never force Coach Sloan out of Utah. He's meant more to this town, more to this organization than I have by far. I would have asked out of Utah first."

Williams said he and Sloan are both "stubborn" and clashed because they both wanted to win.

"Not many come into this league and can play for a Hall of Fame coach their first six years," Williams told the station. "I got a chance to learn from the best. We won a lot of basketball games because of Coach Sloan."

Now it's up to the 48-year-old Corbin to win some more, starting Friday at home against the Phoenix Suns.

Jazz broadcaster Thurl Bailey, who was traded to Minnesota from Utah in 1991 in exchange for Corbin, called Thursday a "sad day" for the state because such a legend stepped down. But he also was pleased for Corbin, the team's first African-American coach.

"That's significant," Bailey said. "It goes to a great guy, who was a great player, who happens to be African-American. But as we all know, this is a great country we live in. It's what he worked for. Some guys want to be president. Some guys want to be head coach of an NBA team. I'm proud of him."

Even Miami Heat star LeBron James was stunned by the news.

"Man its gonna be crazy and weird seeing anyone besides Jerry Sloan walking the sidelines for the Utah Jazz!" James wrote on Twitter. "Jerry Sloan is the Utah Jazz. Wow."

While he has headed the Jazz, there have been 245 coaching changes around the league — 13 alone by the Los Angeles Clippers, and five current NBA teams (Charlotte, Memphis, Toronto, Orlando and Minnesota) did not exist when Sloan took the helm in Utah.

As a player with the Bulls, Sloan averaged 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 755 games played over 11 NBA seasons.

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