Utah Jazz CEO Greg Miller said Tuesday that he pleaded with Jerry Sloan not to quit mid-season two years ago after a clash with star guard Deron Williams, but that the longtime head coach couldn’t be talked out of it.
During a round table with reporters Tuesday, Miller for the first time recounted what happened behind closed doors during the final game of Sloan’s 23-year run as Jazz coach on Feb. 9, 2011.
Miller said it started when Sloan and Williams got into an argument at halftime about the final play before the half. Sloan walked away from the team toward his office and past Miller, saying: “I’d like to have a word with you after the game.”
Williams shot back, “Yeah, I want to be in the meeting, too.”
“Do you want me to quit right now?” Sloan replied.
As the argument escalated, then-assistant coach Ty Corbin calmed Williams while Miller took Sloan aside and told him to focus on winning the game. He also reaffirmed the franchise’s commitment to backing the coach over the player.
After the Jazz lost to the Chicago Bulls, Miller went back into Sloan’s office and pulled a chair up next to Sloan.
“Jerry, I know this is frustrating,” Miller said to Sloan. “But we’re just going to have to muscle through it.”
“I’ve been at this a long time and there is nothing left in the tank,” Miller recalled Sloan saying. “I think I’m done.”
“C’mon, Jerry,” Miller said.
“No, I’m serious,” Sloan said. “I’m out of gas.”
Miller asked him to at least stay through the season, but Sloan just kept repeating that he was out of gas. As the seriousness of Sloan’s words hit him, Miller decided begging him to stay wasn’t going to work.
“Jerry, I got to respect your decision,” Miller told him. “If you are done, you’re done. I’m not happy about it.”
Miller convinced him to sleep on it, but the next day Sloan announced his retirement after leading the Jazz to the playoffs 19 times in 22 seasons and to the NBA Finals twice.
Two weeks later, the Jazz traded Williams to the New Jersey Nets.
Miller told reporters Tuesday that he wrote down the details of the events in his journal because he knew it would be a pivotal moment in Jazz history. He said he has spoken to Sloan several times in the past few days since Sloan rejoined the team in a consultant role and said Sloan is quite happy to be back. He said he’s on good terms with Williams, too.
Miller, the 47-year-old son of the late Larry H. Miller, also told reporters Tuesday that his family remains committed to keeping the Jazz in Salt Lake City and that they’ll spend the money necessary to put a winning team on the court. He said the family and its business, the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, see the ownership of the Jazz as part of their stewardship of the community.