SALT LAKE CITY — New Utah Jazz coach Ty Corbin admitted his head was still spinning from Jerry Sloan’s shocking resignation yet expressed confidence Friday the team and star guard Deron Williams were moving forward together.
“Right now the guys’ heads are spinning like mine is and we’ve got to find some way to get some stability through the game tonight and the next couple of games,” said the 48-year-old Corbin, who was chosen as Utah’s new head coach Thursday. “Then maybe we can catch our breath a little bit.”
Williams, meanwhile, was doing his best to squelch speculation that he forced out the 68-year-old Sloan. But he did acknowledge having a halftime argument Wednesday night with Sloan in an emotional 91-86 loss to Chicago.
“Maybe arguing was the last straw, so there I am, guilty of that,” Williams said. “But I think anybody who believes I could force coach Sloan to resign is crazy. He’s stronger than that and personally if I said that to him, he’d probably go tell me to go do something.”
Williams laughed at the thought.
Earlier Friday he admitted the rumors were not funny.
“Never once did I say, ‘It’s me or him,’” Williams said. “That didn’t happen. I haven’t even had a meeting with any of our management this year. So where all this stuff is coming from I have no clue.
“I’d be interested to see who the sources are. When I see one stand up in front of a camera, then I’d be interested in talking about it. But it’s not a funny situation at all because we lost our coach. But I think it is funny all this stuff gets out there. I can’t control that nor do I care.”
Teammates Andrei Kirilenko and C.J. Miles also refused to believe rumors that Williams gave management an ultimatum.
“As long as he’s been here, to have one altercation be the reason he retired … over nothing, I definitely doubt it,” Miles said.
None of the players had doubts that Corbin was ready for the challenge, even if Corbin admitted he was nervous and only slept two hours Thursday night.
“The guys have responded well,” he said after Friday morning’s shootaround. “We’ll see how we respond tonight.”
Corbin, who has been a Jazz assistant the last seven seasons, said his message to the players was simple.
“Status quo,” Corbin said. “We’re a good team. We’re expected to win. We’ve got to get back to work and get past this adjustment process as soon as we can.”
Corbin already has made one change, indicating that Jeff Hornacek will have more input as an assistant. He likely will add one more coach to the bench.
“The guys are fragile right now, so you don’t want to shake things up too much before we get through the adjustment process,” Corbin said.
“I’m not going to say I’m not going to make mistakes. But I’ll do my best and move on and learn from them.”
Asked what his strengths are, Corbin didn’t hesitate.
“I played forever. I played (16) years,” said Corbin, a journeyman who had stints with San Antonio, Cleveland, Phoenix, Minnesota, Utah, Atlanta, Sacramento, Miami and Toronto. “I’ve been with this team the last seven years. I know these guys. I know the game. I know who we are, who we can be and where we want to go.”
It’s one of the reasons he sat down with Williams as soon as he was offered the job Thursday.
“Deron is a really talented guy and one of the leaders on this team,” Corbin said. “We have to have him focused on winning and feeling good with what is going on with the team. And that was the message, ‘We’re going to go as you go and we need you to be with us with everything that’s going on.’ I wanted to make sure we’re on the same page. I think he was receptive to it. I think he feels relaxed about it.”
Corbin also was asked if the rumors swirling around Williams might ultimately result in his exit from Utah when he has the option to become an unrestricted free agent after next season.
He responded by saying Sloan’s departure was more than one incident with Williams.
“They had their relationship,” Corbin said. “I don’t know everything about it. There are always conflicts with players, but I do not think it was anything personal.”
Williams praised Sloan.
“He had a great career here, one of the best coaches of all time, a hall of fame coach,” Williams said.
Miles, who also spent time in Sloan’s doghouse, said Sloan made him into the player he is today.
“He brought me in here when I was 180 pounds, kicking the ball off my feet,” Miles said. “He taught me so much. Any player who ever said they agreed with everything coach Sloan did, they’d be lying to you. But there were 100 times more good times than any bad times with coach Sloan and anything he ever did to me was for me.”
Kirilenko also had fond words for Sloan, who had been in the NBA as either a player or coach for the last 45 years. Assistant Phil Johnson also joined Sloan in retirement Thursday after 23 seasons with the Jazz.
“It’s very sad to lose so (much) knowledge,” Kirilenko said. “They taught me everything as a player. I came to the league as a 20-year-old. Everything I know right now they did it. They made me an NBA basketball player. They’re going to stay in the heart.”