Life is all about change, but there are still some things we always expect to be the same. I cannot imagine the day when Coach K leaves Duke. It will be surreal when Joe Paterno is not on the sidelines for Penn State. And I’m sure, for most of us, the same can be said for Jerry Sloan‘s absence from the Utah Jazz bench.
After 23 years in the same place, what could make the Hall of Fame NBA coch resign in the middle of a season? The rumors are swirling that Sloan’s relationship with Deron Williams was the culprit. Word around the League is that Sloan and Williams had a heated argument during halftime of Wednesday’s loss to Chicago, and that tension that had been brewing with them for years escalated this season.
It’s never pretty when a coach and his star player have irreconcilable differences. We’ve already seen Jim O’Brien get the boot from the Pacers this season in part due to his not being as supportive of Roy Hibbert‘s development as the organization preferred, and Larry Brown left Charlotte mid-season after losing his connection to his players.
With that in mind, here are the five most dysfunctional player-coach relationships in recent NBA history:
Chris Webber vs. Don Nelson — When was the last time the reigning Rookie of the Year was traded within months of winning the award? Webber’s sudden departure from Golden State in ’94 would be the answer. What caused the drastic move? Webber couldn’t see eye-to-eye with Nelson, who wanted Webber in the low post while the No. 1 draft pick wanted to play high post more often. The conflict resulted in 15 years of hard feelings between the two that was somewhat patched up in Webber’s last NBA season when he returned to the Warriors for a brief stint.
Allen Iverson vs. Larry Brown — This was probably the most entertaining relationship: We all remember the famous Iverson “practice” press conference. Iverson was a new-school rebel. Larry Brown was stern in his old-school ways. These two ingredients made up a recipe for heated confrontations. They were able to make it work well enough to make the Finals in 2001, but it sure wasn’t easy for these two.
Latrell Sprewell vs. P.J. Carlesimo — In 99 percent of player-coach disagreements, both parties tend to keep it verbal and somewhat professional. The Sprewell-Carlesimo relationship fell into that other 1 percent. After P.J. criticized a Sprewell pass during practice, Latrell responded by dragging Carlesimo to the ground by his throat and choking him. If you ever wondered, “What’s beef?” That’s beef.
Kobe Bryant vs. Phil Jackson — Remember the days when the Black Mamba was one of the most hated players in the League? He came into the NBA with a sense of entitlement and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way (most notably Shaquille O’Neal). Phil Jackson fell into this category. Kobe was not a fan of Jackson’s triangle offense in the early days of their relationship. Kobe would regularly break offensive sets to display his one-on-one dominance. After leaving the Lakers bench in 2004, Jackson released a book, The Last Season, which touched on his unpleasant relationship with Kobe. They have since patched things up and won two more title together.
Stephon Marbury vs. Mike D’Antoni — Marbury’s homecoming tenure with the Knicks was rocky at many points, but reached its peak in 2008 when D’Antoni was hired to clean up the mess that was the New York Knicks. One of D’Antoni’s strategies for fixing the franchise was sitting Starbury, which berthed the term “Marburied” in the Dime office. This led to an ugly media drama which ended with a buyout of Marbury’s contract.