Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — For years, Jerry Sloan has been asked how long he was going to continue coaching the Utah Jazz.
And for years, his answer was always the same, give or take a few words.
"Maybe," he'd tell inquisitors, "I'll wake up tomorrow and say, 'This is the time to get out of it.'"
That oft-talked-about tomorrow finally arrived Thursday morning.
Hours after delivering the sports-world-shattering news to Jazz management — who tried but were unsuccessful in persuading him to reconsider — Sloan made his resignation official in a press conference with speeches full of tears and gratitude.
"My time is up," Sloan said, "and it's time for me to move on."
That time as the Jazz's head coach — a tenure filled with highs of NBA Finals appearances, lows of early playoff exits, not to forget an unprecedented 1,127 wins with the same organization and a spot in the Hall of Fame — lasted from Dec. 9, 1988 until Feb. 10, 2011.
"This," a teary-eyed Sloan said with a cracking voice, "is a little bit tougher than I thought it would be."
Fittingly, Sloan's longtime right-hand man, Phil Johnson, resigned with the friend he'd coached alongside in Utah for the past 22-plus years.
Former Jazz player Tyrone Corbin, who spent the past seven seasons as Sloan's assistant, was named Utah's new head coach.
"For me," Corbin said, "this is a bittersweet moment."
The moment also came unexpectedly and with many rumors of why Sloan decided to call it quits midway through his 23rd season as the Jazz's bench boss.
The Hall of Famer admitted he'd verbally sparred with captain Deron Williams from time to time, but Sloan refuted reports that claimed locker room arguments with the All-Star forced him to leave the game he's loved coaching and playing since his childhood in McLeansboro, Ill.
"I've had confrontations with players since I've been in the league," Sloan said.
Instead of blaming disputes or locker room dissension on his departure, the 68-year-old said he didn't have the oomph he used to possess. One thing didn't push him out.
"My energy level has dropped off a little bit, and I think it's time that somebody else gets a chance," he said. "Ty's a wonderful guy and will do a great job coaching."
Later, he added: "I'm not as lively as I used to be."
Some referees, of course, might beg to differ.
Jazz management took exception to reports that the organization stuck with its franchise player over its legendary coach.
"I'd like to start by making it clear that nobody pushed Jerry or Phil out," Jazz CEO Greg Miller said. "No players pushed him out. Kevin didn't push him out. An aspiring head coach didn't push him out, and I certainly didn't push him out."
Utah brass met with Sloan for more than a half-hour after the team's 91-86 loss to Chicago on Wednesday — when the coach took an unusually long time to deliver his postgame thoughts — and then again Thursday morning.
General manager Kevin O'Connor said the front office did everything it could to get the longest-tenured coach in U.S. professional sports — and one who had outlasted 245 other coaching changes in the NBA since replacing Frank Layden in 1988 — to change his mind.
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