Jerry Sloan, the legendary head coach of the Utah Jazz for 23 years, died Friday from complications of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia at age 78. He was diagnosed with both illnesses in 2015.
Sloan played on the Chicago Bulls for 11 seasons in the 1960s and 70s before becoming the head coach in 1979. After three seasons coaching, Sloan left the Bulls.
In 1988, he began coaching the Utah Jazz and continued until 2011. During that time, he led the Jazz to the playoffs 19 times. In 1997 and 1998, the Jazz faced the Bulls in the NBA championship but lost both times.
“Our Hall of Fame coach for 23 years, Jerry had a tremendous impact on the Jazz franchise as expressed by his banner hanging in the arena rafters,” the team said in a statement.
“A roaring response”
The team also paid tribute to his toughness on and off the court. “His hard-nosed approach only made him more beloved,” the statement continued. “Even after his retirement, his presence at Jazz games always brought a roaring response from the crowd.”
“Like Stockton and Malone as players, Jerry Sloan epitomized the organization,” the team wrote. “He will be greatly missed. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Tammy, the entire Sloan family and all who knew and loved him.”
Sloan had a record of 1,221-803 as a head coach, and was the fourth NBA head coach to reach 1,000 wins. He had the sixth-highest win percentage of any coach with over 500 wins, and he also had the sixth most playoff wins with 98.
Even though he took the Jazz to the playoffs 15 seasons in a row, he never won Coach of the Year. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
“Rest easy, Coach”
The Jazz also honored Sloan in a tweet Friday, writing, “Rest easy, Coach.”
Rest easy, Coach ❤️
— utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 22, 2020
The Bulls organization also honored Sloan in a tweet that referred to him as “The Original Bull.”
Fans seemed to appreciate his no-nonsense style that wasn’t as rude or dramatic as other coaches in the NBA had been known to be.
Sloan is survived by his wife Tammy and four children.