SALT LAKE CITY — Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan stepped down Thursday after 23 seasons and 1,127 wins at the helm of the Utah Jazz, saying he simply ran out of energy to coach anymore.
“I had a feeling this time was the time to move on,” an emotional Sloan said during a Thursday afternoon news conference. “(That’s) a long time to be in one organization. Again, I’ve been blessed. Today is a new day. When I get this over with, I’ll feel better. My time is up and it’s time to move on.”
Longtime assistant Phil Johnson also resigned, surprising even Sloan during their postgame chat Wednesday night with general manager Kevin O’Connor.
“I came with him and I’ll leave with him,” the 69-year-old Johnson said Thursday.
The two men agreed to sleep on their decisions Wednesday night at the request of team owners and O’Connor.
Nothing changed in the morning and Sloan reported sleeping better than he has in weeks. Asked what he’ll do now, he didn’t know, and said he expected to be a “dizzy duck” for a while.
Jazz CEO Greg Miller said he tried to talk Sloan out of retiring.
“I want to make it clear that nobody pushed Jerry or Phil out,” Miller said. “I loved and respected Jerry for as long as I can remember… I will miss him but benefit from the things he taught me for the rest of my life.”
Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin was named the new coach, and team officials made it clear there is no “interim” tag next to his name.
The 48-year-old Corbin called it a “bittersweet” moment.
“While it’s a great opportunity for me, it’s a bitter moment for me because I will miss these guys a lot.”
The moves came on the heels of an emotional 91-86 loss Wednesday night to the Chicago Bulls, Utah’s 10th in the last 14 games.
But Sloan, the longest-tenured coach in the four major professional sports, insisted that wasn’t the final straw.
O’Connor also said reports that star guard Deron Williams had said it was either “me or Sloan” were false and unfair to Williams.
Williams’ late turnover helped Chicago seal Utah’s third straight home loss.
Afterward, Sloan hinted that something was in the works after delaying his postgame press conference more than 30 minutes.
Sloan just recently signed a one-year contract extension to carry him through the 2011-12 season, but he also indicated that he would not make anything official until after the current season.
The team started 15-5 but fell to 31-23 after the loss to Chicago, the only other team Sloan has coached (he was 94-121 in nearly three seasons with the Bulls). The Chicago loss was the third straight at home, where the Jazz are only 17-11 this season.
Though Sloan has been with the Jazz since 1983, first as a scout, he knows how tenuous professional sports can be.
Even before Wednesday’s game he made that clear.
He has made a habit of conducting his pre-game news conferences next to a large plastic garbage receptacle in the concourse at EnergySolutions Arena rather than from behind a podium.
“You never know when you might be in it,” he quipped Wednesday. “It’s why I stand here. You take what you get.”
Sloan began working for the Jazz as a scout in 1983, became assistant to coach Frank Layden on Nov. 19, 1984, and was named the sixth coach in franchise history on Dec. 9, 1988, when Layden resigned.
He is the only coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with one team, a feat he accomplished Nov. 7 against Oklahoma City. Sloan’s other wins came with the Chicago Bulls from 1979 to 1982.
“Few people have epitomized all the positives of team sports more than Jerry Sloan,” NBA Commissioner David Stern said in a written statement. “A basketball lifer, Jerry was as relentless in his will to win on the sidelines for the Utah Jazz as he was as an All-Star guard for the Chicago Bulls. In over two decades as a coach, he taught his players that nothing was more important than the team. His most impressive qualities were his leadership and his extraordinary ability to encourage his players to subjugate their individual games for the benefit of the whole.”
While he has headed the Jazz, there have been 245 coaching changes around the league — 13 alone by the Los Angeles Clippers, and five current NBA teams (Charlotte, Memphis, Toronto, Orlando and Minnesota) did not even exist when Sloan took the helm in Utah.
He ranks third all-time in NBA wins (1,221) behind Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332).
Sloan also is one of only three coaches in NBA history with 15-plus consecutive seasons with a winning record. Pat Riley and Phil Jackson, both with 19, are the others.
As a player with the Bulls, Sloan averaged 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 755 games played over 11 NBA seasons. Nicknamed “The Original Bull” because he was selected in the 1966 Expansion Draft, Sloan was a two-time NBA All-Star (1967, 1969) known for his toughness and grit. He was the only player in NBA history to average 7-plus rebounds and 2-plus steals per game for his career.
Sloan recorded two triple-doubles in his career. A knee injury prematurely ended his career in 1976.
His resignation comes just two weeks after the second-longest tenured professional coach, Jeff Fisher, parted ways with the Tennessee Titans after a 6-10 season.