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Utah Jazz trying to adjust to life without Sloan

Published: Sunday, Feb. 13 2011 12:26 a.m. MST

New Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin instructs players in Utah's 95-83 loss to Phoenix on Friday.   (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) New Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin instructs players in Utah's 95-83 loss to Phoenix on Friday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Sloan's Hall of Fame regime ended Thursday, and Ty Corbin's head coaching career started Friday.

Saturday for the Utah Jazz could be described as the beginning of the healing process.

"We are going through some adjustments. It's a different situation for everybody," Corbin said prior to conducting his first practice as head coach. "But we've got to get on the same page and understand that the seasons go on, the game's gonna go on."

Added Corbin: "We're expected to win, so we've got to get past all of this emotional stuff."

That might be easier said than done.

"It's just a tough situation everybody's in right now. It's unfortunate," Jazz point guard Deron Williams said. "We've just got to try to fight out of it and win some games."

Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams had 19 points and 14 assists against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Jazz point guard Deron Williams had 19 points and 14 assists against the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

And do some significant damage control — on multiple levels, for the team and for Williams, who's been linked through reports and rumors of playing a large role in Sloan taking an unexpectedly early exit from his coaching career.

"I don't like being in the spotlight," Williams said, "and this put a lot of attention on me and I don't like it."

Williams admitted dealing with that has taken a toll. A Jazz player hasn't dealt with this type of outside scrutiny and speculation since Carlos Boozer participated in his foot-in-mouth free-agency folly a couple of years ago.

"I'm a little drained. I can't lie," Williams said. "God does everything for a reason."

Corbin reconfirmed his support for the team's leader and two-time All-Star.

"Deron's a fighter," the new Jazz coach said. "I've always respected the fact if he struggled in the game, the next night he'd come out, he'd play well."

Corbin believes Williams will fight through this adversity, too.

"I think he's fine. I think he's disappointed like all of us are that we lost the game (Friday against Phoenix)," Corbin said. "There's a lot more responsibility on his part because some people are saying he was the reason that coach left. He'll respond to it. We'll support him in any way. He's talented enough to play his way through it."

One significant thing that might help is that Corbin and Williams have an open line of communication — something the sixth-year star didn't feel he had with his veteran coach.

"I've always had a good relationship with coach (Corbin)," Williams said. "I've always felt a little bit more comfortable going to him, so hopefully we can continue to do that."

Williams also hopes the Jazz will continue to play more like they did in the first half Friday than they did in their 27-point dud of a second half.

"We can get better," he said. "We know we have it in us. We've just got to find it and be consistent with it."

Added starting power forward Paul Millsap: "We've just got to get our swagger back and hopefully things will work out for us."

In his 10 years, backup guard Earl Watson has been through midseason coaching changes, but he calls this one a "tough situation" because of the respect level for Sloan. Watson believes the fact that the Jazz replaced him in-house with a guy they also respect will help make a smoother transition.

"We want to win. We all want to win," Watson said. "We all are comfortable with Ty, and that's a part of us emotionally moving on from coach (Sloan). Every person has their own timetable."

Utah got an early emotional boost as it tried to get Corbin a win in his debut Friday. But after jumping out to a 15-point lead — and leading 56-44 at halftime — the Jazz settled back into the same problematic mode that has plagued them on and off throughout this roller-coaster ride of a season.

The result — a 95-83 loss to the Phoenix Suns — was similar to the recent slew of setbacks suffered during Sloan's final weeks as the bench boss.

"Whatever you run, if you don't play with energy and excitement and understanding, it's not going to work," Corbin said, "and we didn't have any of those in the fourth quarter."

Williams admitted that he was disappointed how the year has turned out so far.

"I never thought we'd be at this spot in the season," he said, fully aware the Jazz are now 31-25 after a 15-5 start. "I thought we had a chance to be better and improve on last season, and it's continued to go downhill."

Williams puts a large portion of that blame on his shoulders.

"I always put pressure on myself to perform, night in, night out," Williams said. "I think the team expects that out of me as well. I haven't been upholding my end of the bargain, so I need to do that."

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