SALT LAKE CITY — Jazz players were just as shocked as everyone else when Jerry Sloan resigned as their coach on Thursday.
"I definitely didn't see it coming," Jazz forward C.J. Miles said after the team's shootaround on Friday morning. "Even with the things that were being said (Wednesday) night and (Thursday) morning, I didn't believe it until I got a phone call."
They're still having a hard time believing it, and it might not sink in until tonight when they host the Phoenix Suns.
"I see him there every game, every practice coming in and working hard," said forward Paul Millsap. "It's going to be tough."
Sloan was well-respected by his players, they said, and they're sad to see him go.
"He's the reason I'm here," Miles said. "He stuck with me when I was 180 pounds, kicking the ball out of bounds off my feet. He taught me so much. Any player who's ever said he agrees with everything his coach did would be lying to you. I have far more — 100 more — good times than bad times with coach Sloan. He's the reason I am who I am today as a person and a basketball player."
As sad as the Jazz are to see Sloan go, they respect his decision.
"Jerry has earned the right to make a decision on what he thinks is best for his family, for him, for the Jazz," said guard Raja Bell. "I trust him to make the right one, so if he thought it was time, it was time. I will be sad and I will miss him."
Jazz players took the opportunity to have their say in addressing rumors and speculation regarding Sloan's departure. They said Sloan had not lost the team, and that the argument that happened between Sloan and Deron Williams at halftime of Utah's 91-86 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday night couldn't have been the reason why the longtime coach resigned.
"We always listen," said forward Andrei Kirilenko. "Players are pretty responsive. They've been trying to play the games and trying to get better. I think coach Sloan is probably the best motivator I've ever seen — him and Phil (Johnson)."
Regarding the halftime incident between Sloan and Williams, Miles said it couldn't have led to Sloan leaving the organization.12 comments on this story
"I believe that had nothing to do with it," Miles said. "As long as he's been here, I can't believe one altercation would be the reason he retires. It was an argument and it was over in like five minutes, and they were talking like it never happened the next play."
Kirilenko came to defense of Williams regarding reports the All-Star point guard was the driving force in Sloan leaving the team. He said the reports weren't true.
"I think it's crap," Kirilenko said.