New era begins for Jazz

Sports Network

, Last Updated: 8:09 PM ET

For the first time since Ronald Reagan was President the Utah Jazz will have a different mentor patrolling the sidelines tonight when they entertain the Phoenix Suns at EnergySolutions Arena.

Jerry Sloan abruptly resigned as head coach of the Jazz on Thursday, stepping down in the middle of his 23rd season with the team. The surprising news came just three days after Sloan signed a contract extension to coach the team through next season.

"My time is up, and it's time to move on," a somber Sloan said at an afternoon press conference.

Assistant coach Tyrone Corbin was named as Sloan's replacement and will debut tonight and the organization, which obviously values stability, made sure to say Corbin was the head coach -- not interim head coach. Longtime assistant coach Phil Johnson also stepped down with Sloan out the door and said his only regret was not winning an NBA Championship with the Jazz.

"I came with him, and I leave with him," Johnson said during the press conference.

Sloan, 68, took over the Jazz early in the 1988-89 season and had been the longest-tenured head coach in American professional sports before walking away. Including two-plus seasons with the Chicago Bulls, Sloan went 1,221-803 as an NBA head coach -- the third-winningest in league history behind Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2009 along with former Jazz point guard John Stockton.

His final game as Jazz head coach was a 91-86 loss to the Bulls on Wednesday, which dropped Utah to 31-23 and into the sixth spot in the Western Conference.

Sloan's post-game press conference was delayed for over 30 minutes as the head coach met with Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor. Sloan, who reportedly has clashed with star point guard Deron Williams, said the decision to step down was his, not the team's, and that he would not seek another head coaching position.

"I'm not looking for another job," Sloan said during the press conference. "My wife has got a job for me when I get home."

Sloan coached the Bulls from 1979-82 after a successful stint playing for the team -- they retired his No. 4 jersey -- but had a losing record and was fired during the last season. He worked as a Jazz scout for one year, then later returned to Utah as an assistant. He took over as head coach on December 9, 1988, after Frank Layden retired and guided the team to 16 consecutive playoff appearances.

While coaching players like Karl Malone, Stockton and Jeff Hornacek, Sloan led the Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals in 1997-98, falling both times to Michael Jordan's Bulls. The team missed the playoffs for the first time under Sloan after the 2003-04 season, then went on to miss the postseason both of the next two seasons. The Jazz rebounded under Sloan, however, and advanced to the Western Conference Finals in 2007, losing to eventual NBA-champion San Antonio.

Al Jefferson finished with 26 points and eight boards for the Jazz, who have dropped three straight home games, in what turned out to be Sloan's final game on Wednesday. Paul Millsap chipped in 20 points and 14 rebounds for Utah, which got 13 points and 10 boards from Andrei Kirilenko.

Williams donated 11 points and 12 assists, but committed three of his five turnovers in the final minute of play and later told a local radio station he argued with Sloan at halftime but nothing more.

"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."

The Suns come in with much less drama after reaching the .500 (25-25) mark on the season with a 112-88 rout of Golden State in the desert on Thursday. Steve Nash scored 18 points with 11 assists in that one.

Channing Frye added 17 points and Jared Dudley scored 13 off the bench in a well-balanced effort for Phoenix, which has won five of its last six games, including back-to-back victories over the Warriors. The Suns won their previous game in Golden State on Monday despite nearly blowing a 23-point lead in the second half.

The Suns (25-25) reached .500 for the first time since they were 13-13 on December 19 and are 10-4 since Jan. 12 -- tied with Chicago for the second- best record during that time, behind only the NBA-leading Spurs (12-2).

"We'd like to be at about .650 but we have a lot of work to do," said Suns head coach Alvin Gentry. "I thought we did a good job. We took care of business right from the start."

Phoenix has won three straight over the Jazz, including a 110-94 win in Salt Lake City on Oct. 28.


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