Deron Williams, the former Jazz and Nets star who clashed with Jerry Sloan at the end of his time in Utah, shared a heartfelt message about his late coach on Instagram on Friday.
In it, the retired Williams expressed his condolences for the 78-year-old Sloan, who passed away on Friday, and his family. Williams also wrote that he was glad the two got to sit down before it was too late.
“Definitely something that would have haunted me for the rest of my life,” Williams said.
It was 2011, Williams’ sixth season with the Jazz, his relationship with Sloan was deteriorating. The two were going at each other about the team’s direction and Sloan’s insistence to call plays rather than trust Williams. It became a battle of wills, and Williams won out. Sloan stepped away on Feb. 10 and Williams was traded to the Nets on Feb. 23.
In 2013, Sloan came back to the Jazz as an adviser and scouting consultant. The following year, a banner was raised in his honor by the team. Williams’ career, meanwhile, languished. He never reached expectations with the Nets and retired following the 2016-17 season after spending time with the Mavericks and Cavaliers.
But in 2018, the two made amends, meeting at Sloan’s home.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for years,” Williams, a three-time All-Star, told the Jazz’s website then. “Just kind of stubbornness and nerves and all that played a part in why I never reached out.”
By then, Sloan was having health problems, battling Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
“But I’ll tell you what, he does remember a lot. That’s for sure,” Williams said. “The good, the bad, the ugly.”
The best seasons of Williams’ career came with the Jazz, when he was playing for Sloan. Together, the two won 50 games three times and reached the Western Conference finals once, in 2007.
“Blessed that i got to play for him and learn so much from him during my 5 1/2 years in Utah,” Williams wrote on Instagram. “You knew he always had your back when you stepped out on that court.”
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