Friday, February 11, 2011

Williams should take a hit in Sloan saga

By John McMullen

Philadelphia - George Bernard Shaw said it best, "Youth is wasted on the young."

Deron Williams is at his peak physically. His mind is as sharp and clear as it ever will be but make no mistake, he lacks the patience and wisdom to understand helping run Jerry Sloan out of Utah wasn't the best idea in the world.

Like a lot of young players, Williams was never enamored with Sloan's old- school techniques and his flex offense that relied heavily on pick-and-roll basketball, UCLA cuts and back screens on the baseline from point guards like Williams.

To be fair Williams is far from the first to butt heads with a 69-year-old guy that learned the game of basketball in a different era. In recent years both Carlos Boozer and Andrei Kirilenko have had their dust-ups with Sloan and people tend to forget the late Larry Miller often had to get involved when Karl Malone and the veteran mentor were at odds.

Of course those players never pushed it to the point Williams did this week. So for the first time since the Ronald Reagan administration the Jazz will have a different coach, Tyrone Corbin, patrolling the sidelines Friday when they entertain the Phoenix Suns at EnergySolutions Arena.

Secretly I'm sure Williams is smiling but, sensing a public relations backlash, he pivoted away from his role in the controversy on a local radio station after the news broke that Sloan, along with highly-regarded assistant Phil Johnson, were calling it quits.

"I would never force coach Sloan out of Utah," Williams said. "He's meant more to this town, more to this organization than I have by far. I would have asked out of Utah first."

If only Williams actually believed that. Instead he, quite deftly, went to a few apologists in the media and planted a few stories. Things like D-Will balking at Sloan's light use of video, trying to paint the picture that the aging Hall of Famer was out of touch. Or the fact that Sloan never found a way to get the most out of Kirilenko, a very talented player that once wept on the bench.

He also unleashed a few friends, most notably Kobe Bryant. "People need to leave D-Will the [expletive] alone on this," Bryant told Yahoo! Sports. "Leave him alone. He doesn't deserve to be at the front of this. He's a great competitor. He works his butt off. He's always been a great leader. He's clutch, performs under pressure. Enjoy the 23 great years that Jerry Sloan gave them, but don't put this on Deron Williams."

Fair enough, it's not like Williams is the only NBA superstar that has run a coach out of town. Magic Johnson started the troubling trend with Paul Westhead back in the early 1980s, and LeBron James nearly sacrificed Erick Spoelstra earlier this very season when his stint in South Beach got off to an inauspicious start.

It's also always possible that Sloan is just finally tired of the grind but to quote the Feds in Goodfellas. "spare me the babe in the woods routine Karen...err Deron."

Your amateurish disinformation campaign sticks out like a sore thumb. In fact, we can all make a pretty good guess as to which reporter is going to get the exclusive when Williams flees Salt Lake City after the 2011-12 season.

Ego can do funny things to a man and Williams, a brilliant basketball player thanks in part to Sloan's tutelage, has had problems with Utah's inability to get out of the blocks this season along with the rigid system he's forced to run. I'm sure that's frustrating but it is still way out of line to question a coach that has been around for over two decades and virtually perfected the art of pick-and-roll basketball.

It's silly and a tad hubristic for anyone to tell Sloan how to do his job. Maybe D-Will needed Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson in his ear telling him to know his role. If that were the case, perhaps Sloan wouldn't have taken his ball and gone home. Perhaps the most stable organization in professional sports wouldn't have been turned on its ear and perhaps, Williams to Jefferson would have had a little more time to gel and taken its place right next to Stockton to Malone and Williams to Boozer.

Yesterday, I had the dryer guy over to fix an appliance that tapped out over the weekend. I never felt any sense of overbearing pride or arrogance and wasn't about to sit over his shoulder even though I had already hit the Google machine and was confident I diagnosed the problem. Players no matter how talented should learn a lesson from that and defer to their coaches. The bad ones will hang themselves with the rope given to them.

Youth is wasted on the young because the greatest source of knowledge is experience, a lesson Deron Williams is about to learn.

As for the rest of the NBA's coaches, they all received a rather ominous wake- up call this morning. One that says, increase the UCLA cuts, let your point guard screen down low on occasion and oh yeah...get along with your star player.

Your job depends on it.

No comments: