Utah Jazz owner Larry H. Miller said several times in a recent radio interview that he thought coach Jerry Sloan is learning to deal with the younger players like Deron Williams, the No. 3 pick in the 2005 NBA Draft, and that Sloan will probably play 2006 No. 14 overall draft choice Ronnie Brewer more this season because of it.

"I think Jerry learned a lesson last year. When we got back from the all-star break he had made the decision to start playing Deron," Miller said recently on 1280 The Zone.

Sloan had a slightly different spin on the Williams transformation that saw the youngster go from a somewhat unhappy man playing both point and off guard positions to the full-time starting point and then continue to improve over this summer, as evidenced by Williams' strong play last month in the Rocky Mountain Revue's first two games and in the practices leading up to the Revue.

Speaking to the Carmi (Ill.) Kiwanis Club prior to a charity event honoring his late wife, Bobbye, near their hometown of McLeansboro, Sloan shed some light on what went on last season.

" . . . Deron was kind of struggling for a little while and didn't really want to get after it as hard as I thought he should, so I didn't start him for about 12 or 14 days," Sloan said in a story published Friday in the Carmi Times. "I think that helped him realize that if he'd work harder, he had a chance to get better. And once he came back, he was terrific."

Sloan also told the gathering that University of Illinois coach Bruce Weber, Williams' college coach, "told me to talk to (Williams) a lot more."

But that's not the stern Sloan's style. "You know, I can only tell you one or two things: work hard, come to practice on time, do what we tell you . . . What else do you want me to tell you? How much I love you? I'm not going to tell you that," Sloan said.

He had a similar approach with Karl Malone, with whom he is still close.

"I have rules," Sloan said, citing things like keeping shirts tucked in and having all the players dressed alike on the court. Before an exhibition game, Sloan noted that Malone was wearing black shoes, while the rest of the team was in white. "I looked at him and said, 'You have black tennis shoes on.' He said, 'I don't have any white ones.'

"So, I told him, 'I tell you what you do, son — you take off your uniform and hang it up on the locker because you're sure not going to play here today.'

"He stormed out of the locker room and got a little upset at me . . . But you know what was amazing? He came back in and said he'd found some white tennis shoes."

The Sloan family established the Hand-in-Hand Foundation following Bobbye's death in the summer of 2004 from pancreatic cancer to raise funds for various charities in several states, including Illinois, Indiana and Utah. Its second annual Twilight Fun Run was held Friday at Dolan Lake near the Sloan home. Money raised in the foundation's first year has gone to varied causes, from cancer groups to humane societies.

VAN HORN TO RETIRE?: Former University of Utah coach Rick Majerus told the Rocky Mountain News that former Ute Keith Van Horn might retire, although at least the Denver Nuggets are interested in signing him, though for a lot less than the $15.7 million he earned last season with Dallas. Van Horn lives in Evergreen, Colo., with his wife and four children.

"That's always a possibility," Majerus told RMN writer Chris Tomasson. "His family is very important to him. It's much more important than the NBA."

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson told Tomasson the same thing. He said Van Horn "made a lot of money in his lifetime" and retirement is "always an option."

MORE MAVS: The Mavericks had the Jazz draft 7-foot-5 Russian Pavel Podkolzin for them at No. 21 in 2004. Friday they released Podkolzin, who played only six games in two seasons but did play in last month's Rocky Mountain Revue. "Pavel has made big strides and had a very bright future, but at 21 years of age, playing experience is imperative to his development," said Nelson in an Associated Press story.

E-mail: lham@desnews.com