February 14, 2011 by David Gillaspie
Don’t Blame Jerry Sloan On Deron Williams
The greatest axiom in any sport is DON’T QUIT.
How else can you explain the saying, ‘quitters never win and winners never quit?’ If you never quit, don’t worry about it.
The great Roberto ‘Hands of Stone’ Duran is remembered for winning four titles. He’s remembered for winning fights in five different decades.
But Roberto ‘Manos de Piedra’ Duran is also remembered for his ‘No Mas’ fight against Sugar Ray Leonard.
One of the greatest fighters of all time left the ring during a fight healthy. It was no KO, or TKO, that took him out. It wasn’t a Sugar Ray Leonard punch that put him down.
It was disgust.
Before winning their first fight, Duran used his pre-fight skills to soften up Leonard; his insults and cursing may have set the tone for Mike ‘Baby Eater’ Tyson later. Then, while winning their second fight, Leonard turned things around.
Sugar Ray took a page from the Muhammad Ali fight book and made a dangerous fighter look funny. Think ex-con Sonny Liston. Not a funny guy. Roberto Duran is not a funny guy either, not one you want to enrage any more than he is already.
Ray Leonard seems like a guy who knows how to have fun, but why do it in the ring against Hands of Stone?
Some enjoyed his sneaker punches and ‘hit me if you can’ face, some didn’t. Duran hated it enough to stain his reputation with the one substance that never washes out.
He quit. He quit on the team that got him ready to fight.
Jerry Sloan quit on the team he created in his own likeness. Does that make Deron Williams his Sugar?
Michael Jordan played for Doug Collins and scored lots of points. Then Collins left and Chicago won six NBA Championships.
Magic Johnson won a title with coach Paul Westhead, then spoke out against him a couple years later. Pat Riley took the team after Westhead and collected a handful of titles.
Professional and amateur sports are full of stories where top players and their coaches don’t agree. Management usually steps in and chooses a side.
It’s not often a well-respected coach, a coach with decades of service to the same team, caps himself.
That’s what Jerry Sloan did.
Maybe he learned that Deron Williams plans to follow other high-caliber Jazz players out of Utah via free agency and didn’t want to hear him complain another second.
Maybe he learned his team stopped enjoying the news images of him roaring wide-mouthed like a German tank commander quitting Russia in WWII.
What it’s not, is age. Jerry Sloan didn’t age from one day to the next any more than the usual twenty-four hours. Or did he?
It’s safe to say an engine running the Daytona 500 doesn’t get the same wear as one taking months to clock the same five hundred miles.
Maybe Sloan’s tachometer red-lined against the team he once played on, the Chicago Bulls. Maybe he threw a piston, or his oil had the dreaded viscosity breakdown.
All we know for sure is he quit in the middle of an NBA season. What would Jerry do to a player who quit on him in the middle of the season, or the middle of a game?
The sound of his condemnation would echo off the Wasatch Mountains.
At the end of the day, Coach Sloan ranks third in all-time wins behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens. These three men coached their teams to thousands and thousands of wins, but you can count their combined championships on one finger, Wilkens’ 1979 Seattle Sonics.
Maybe Deron Williams noticed that finger.
Maybe Coach Sloan showed him the finger before he left the Jazz.
No mas? Si.