The former longtime Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan put together an impressive career with the franchise that spanned over two decades in the league. His recent passing due to complications related to Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia has put his life in a greater perspective. Although he had put together an impressive coaching career primarily with the Jazz that earned him an induction to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, Sloan was much more than just a head coach. He impacted lives in other ways as his kindness once helped save a woman’s life.
Jerry Sloan’s NBA career
Before becoming a legendary NBA head coach, Sloan was a productive player in the league.
He played for 11 seasons with 10 of those campaigns with the Chicago Bulls, where he averaged 14.0 career points per game. He was the first draft selection by the Bulls in their first season. That includes him earning a pair of All-Star Game selections, NBA All-Defensive First Team nods, two NBA All-Defensive Second Team nominations, and has his No. 4 jersey retired by the Bulls.
A few years after his retirement, Sloan coached Chicago for three years with the franchise. His next head coaching opportunity with the Jazz, where he spent the last 23 years of his coaching career. That saw Sloan become the first coach to notch 1,000 wins with the same franchise along with being one of three coaches to win at least 50 games in 10 or more seasons.
He also led the franchise to 15 straight years with a playoff birth, which is highlighted by back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998. Sloan’s resume speaks for itself, but he was one of the most respected coaches in the league. It turns out that he was much more than with one of his genuine gestures that helped save a woman’s life.
Jerry Sloan helped save a woman’s life
In an article in the Chicago Tribune by Melissa Isaacson during the 1997 NBA Finals, it was revealed that Sloan had helped a 15-year-old girl attend his camp in Chicago for free. That included even driving her home because her mother was working. Sloan’s impact didn’t stop there as he maintained contact with her in the years that followed.
The unnamed woman did play collegiate basketball at a major school, but then experienced hardships after college such unfulfilling jobs that led to struggles with alcoholism. She wound up in an abusive relationship, where the man held her and her baby at gunpoint. He died by suicide while her difficulties with alcoholism persistent, and she became suicidal.
During that time, Sloan stepped in to help the woman after her mother reached out to him. That went to the extent of him offering to her to live with him and his family, where she could be placed in treatment. The woman took Sloan’s advice and was four years clean at the time of the article.
“I think about Jerry all the time,” she says. “The way I look at life, the way I raise my little boy, the way I go on job interviews, I got from him.
“My philosophy in life was always negative, always cynical. But he always taught me that if you work hard enough and want something badly enough, it can happen. He gave me self-esteem. He gave me hope.”
His guidance helped the woman turn her life around, which demonstrates that Sloan did much more than coach NBA games.
Jerry Sloan was more than an NBA head coach
Although Sloan was already well-recognized as being one of the most respected head coaches in the league, he was much more than that.
This story demonstrates that the solid content of his character extended off the court. It speaks further to the person he was that helped others in a time of need.
Beyond that, it brings a greater appreciation and gratitude to Sloan after his recent passing.