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“I held that grudge” — The specific incident that triggered Deron Williams to take things personally against Jerry Sloan

Deron Williams and Jerry Sloan had a feud that ended with them parting ways with the Utah Jazz.
Jerry Sloan and Deron Williams during their Utah Jazz days

Jerry Sloan, Deron Williams

Deron Williams was regarded as one of the best guards from the mid-2000s to the early 2010s. He was an elite scorer and playmaker with supreme handles and strength that allowed him to do whatever he wanted. 

However, behind this facade of greatness is his tense rivalry with legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan. Williams reflected on the genesis of this feud and pointed out the particular instance that triggered him to take things personally against Sloan.

The grudge

Williams was selected as the third overall pick by the Jazz in the 2005 NBA Draft. Being a lottery pick, he expected to be placed at the mantle right from the get-go. But Sloan had different ideas as he strangely fielded Williams with inconsistency. This did not sit well with the guard.

“Our relationship was definitely strained at the end. I think I held onto that rookie year, not starting — how he didn’t really play me, and would play me a couple of minutes here. I think I took that personally for a while when I was younger and kind of held that grudge. So, I think that affected me a little bit,” Williams said per All The Smoke.

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Williams played 80 games in his rookie year. He was part of the starting lineup 47 times. Data reveals that though he averaged 28.8 minutes per game, there were games where he played anywhere between 9 to 17 minutes. This might have been confusing for Williams, who believed the Jazz picked him up to become the team’s franchise guy.

Prima donna

In Williams’ five-and-half-year stint with the Jazz, the team made it to the playoffs four times. 2007 was their best year as they made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. Behind this success, Williams’ relationship with Sloan was deteriorating. Reports reveal that the young guard was calling his own plays. This sounds trivial but was a big issue to an old-school coach like Sloan. Not even the legendary John Stockton called his own plays. He always looked to Sloan for the next play call.

Williams did admit that he had his own shortcomings during those days. He was young and a bit immature. Williams has a tinge of regret about what happened between him and Sloan.

“I was definitely a little s*** at times — a little prima donna. I also, I knew how coach Sloan was, and I think I kind of would poke the bear just to see his reactions, too. It was kind of like a little back and forth thing; s*** that I definitely wouldn’t do now, knowing what I know now. But I always respected coach Sloan; I learned a lot from him. My best years were definitely in Utah. I got a lot of love and respect for him as a coach and as a person,” Williams said.

Perhaps Williams is a bit lucky, considering that his tiff occurred way before the explosion of social media. He would’ve been painted as the villain for testing the limits of the legendary coach. The good thing is that Williams and Sloan patched things up before the coach’s death in 2020. 

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