Deron Williams Remembers Tough Love From Jerry Sloan

Dec 8, 2020, 12:31 PM | Updated: 12:34 pm
deron williams fight...
Deron Williams #8 of the Utah Jazz against the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena on November 12, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The tumultuous relationship between Deron Williams and the late Hall of Fame Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is well documented. The two fierce competitors clashed during their time together in Utah, ultimately leading to Sloan’s retirement, and Williams being traded to the New Jersey Nets.

On the Knuckleheads podcast, Williams talked to former NBA players Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles about his experience with Sloan during his rookie season with the Jazz.

Williams was, and still remains the Jazz highest lottery draft pick of all time. After a draft-day trade with the Portland Trail Blazers, the organization moved from the sixth pick and drafted Williams number three overall.

Viewer Discretion: Strong Language in the Clip Below

Despite his high profile entering the NBA, Sloan didn’t hand the highly touted guard anything during his rookie season.

“To start off the season I was playing second quarters and fourth quarters,” Williams remembered. “That’s it.”

Unheralded guard Keith McLeod earned the starting job on opening night, a positing he held for much of the season. Wiliams started for a select few games early in his rookie year before being moved back to the bench through most of January and February.

“He had barely played me in a couple of games,” Williams said. “Like 8-12, 20 minutes here and there. Just very sporadic.”

Williams’ playing time dipped from 31 minutes per game in November to 29 minutes in December, down to just 10 minutes per outing in January.

That’s when Williams said his approach towards the NBA changed.

“I went to the rookie game and I came back and I said, you know what, I don’t care if he plays me at the one or if he plays me at the two,” Williams said. “I’m just going to play hard as [expletive]. I’m just going to play hard. And I think that’s where it started to click. Because then shortly after that, he started me for the rest of the season.

Williams finished the season averaging 13.8 points and 6.6 assists in nearly 36 minutes per game over the Jazz final 10 contests.

As Williams experience grew with the Jazz, he realized Sloan’s gruff nature wasn’t aimed solely at him.


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The three-time All-Star remember how Sloan would find preemptive rage over players breaking team rules, even before the season had officially started.

“Every training camp we would have our team meeting and coach Sloan […] would flip through this book,” Williams said. “He’d have his glasses on and he would be reading and he would take them off and he would be mad like we did something wrong. But it’s the first meeting ever when he’s going over the rules, he was already mad because he knows somebody’s going break the rule.”

Williams spent 12 seasons in the NBA between the Jazz, Nets, Dallas Mavericks, and Cleveland Cavaliers. The guard retired in 2017 with career averages of 16.3 points, 8.1 assists, and 3.1 rebounds in 845 career games.

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Deron Williams Remembers Tough Love From Jerry Sloan