NBA

Jerry Sloan Was Much More Than a Basketball Coach

Jerry Sloan is known for his success as a coach in the National Basketball Association. He spent 26 seasons in the NBA as a head coach, the last 23 as head coach of the Utah Jazz. Sloan, however, was much more than a basketball coach. He was a very accomplished basketball player and a great family man. Sloan died Friday at age 78 after battling Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Jerry Sloan the basketball coach

Jerry Sloan is widely known for his coaching ability at the NBA level. He began his NBA coaching career as an assistant coach with the Chicago Bulls back in 1978 after one year as a scout with the team. After just one season as an assistant coach with the Bulls, Sloan was promoted to head coach for the 1979-80 NBA season.

He spent three seasons as head coach of the Bulls, compiling a 94-121 record before being fired by the team in February of 1982. Sloan’s steps were repeated in Utah, where he began as a scout for the team before being promoted to assistant coach for the 1985-86 season. He spent three years as an assistant before he took over the head coaching duties for the 1988-89 season. Sloan held on to that position for 23 years.

During his 23-year reign as head coach, Sloan guided the Jazz, led by John Stockton and Karl Malone, to consecutive NBA Finals appearances, where they were defeated both times by the Chicago Bulls. For his career, Sloan racked up 1,221 victories against 803 losses. He finished with just one losing season with the Jazz. Sloan was inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2009.

Jerry Sloan the basketball player

After graduating from McLeansboro High School in Illinois as an all-state basketball player, Jerry Sloan went on to play college basketball at the University of Evansville. While still in college, Sloan was selected with the 19th overall pick in the 1964 NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets.

Sloan elected to remain in college and he helped guide the Purple Aces to a Division II national title. The Bullets scooped him up again in the 1965 NBA draft, selecting him fourth overall. After one season in Baltimore, the Bullets traded Sloan to the Chicago Bulls. In his first season with the Bulls, Sloan averaged 17.4 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Sloan spent 10 seasons with the Bulls before retiring due to lingering knee issues. The 6-foot-5 Sloan had his best year during the 1970-71 season when he averaged 18.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. He finished his career with a 14-points per-game average, was a two-time NBA All-Star, and was named to the NBA All-Defensive Team six times.

What they’re saying about Coach Sloan

When Jerry Sloan resigned during the season in February of 2011, rumors began to swirl about him clashing with some players, specifically guard Deron Williams. At the time, Williams acknowledged there was a disagreement, but he said he would never try to force the beloved Jazz coach out of Utah. On Friday, Williams posted a touching tribute on Instagram.

“Very sad to hear about the passing of Coach Sloan this a.m.” Williams wrote. “I’m praying for (wife) Tammy and their family during this time. I know things didn’t end well between us in Utah, however, I’m glad that I got the chance to sit down with him before it was too late. Definitely something that would have haunted me for the rest of my life. Blessed that I got to play for him and learn so much from him during my 5 1/2 years in Utah. You knew he always had your back when you stepped on that court.”

Paul Millsap also offered his condolences and thanked Coach Sloan in a Twitter post. “Thank you for the opportunities, thank you for the lessons, thank you for helping mold me into a great basketball player and man. I will always bring my “lunch pail” to work! RIP Coach Sloan,” Millsap tweeted.

All stats courtesy of Basketball Reference.