The Utah Jazz announced Friday that longtime coach Jerry Sloan died. He was 78.
Sloan had Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. A former NBA player, Sloan was the Jazz’s coach for 23 seasons from 1988-2011 until he stepped down 54 games through his final season in 2011. The team won back-to-back Western Conference championships in 1996-97 and 1997-98 under his watch, though the Jazz and star duo Karl Malone and John Stockton famously lost to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in each of those NBA Finals trips.
The team won over 1,200 combined regular-season and postseason games with Sloan at the helm.
“Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz,” the team said in a statement. “He will forever be a part of the Utah Jazz organization and we join his family, friends and fans in mourning his loss. We are so thankful for what he accomplished here in Utah and the decades of dedication, loyalty and tenacity he brought to our franchise.
“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. His 1,223 Jazz coaching wins, 20 [total] trips to the NBA playoffs and two NBA Finals appearances are remarkable achievements. His hard-nosed approach only made him more beloved. Even after his retirement, his presence at Jazz games always brought a roaring response from the crowd.”
The Jazz failed to make the playoffs in just three of Sloan’s full seasons with the team and won at least 10 playoff games in 10 postseason appearances.
“Like Stockton and Malone as players, Jerry Sloan epitomized the organization,” the Jazz said. “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 was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 while he was still coaching the Jazz. His 1,272 career regular-season wins as the coach of the Chicago Bulls and Utah Jazz put him at fourth all time behind just Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens and current San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Sloan is one of nine NBA coaches with more than 1,000 regular-season wins and has the sixth-most playoff wins of any coach. He’s also one of seven coaches with 50 or more regular-season wins in 10 or more seasons.
The Miller family, the owners of the Jazz since before Sloan became the team’s head coach, said Sloan would be honored with a “permanent tribute.”
“It was an honor and a privilege to have one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history coaching our team,” the family said in a statement. “We have appreciated our relationship with Jerry and acknowledge his dedication to and passion for the Utah Jazz. He has left an enduring legacy with this franchise and our family. The far-reaching impact of his life has touched our city, state and the world as well as countless players, staff and fans. We pray his family will find solace and comfort in Jerry’s life. The Miller family and Jazz organization will be proud to honor him with a permanent tribute.”
Sloan played 11 seasons in the NBA
Before becoming a legendary coach, Sloan was a pretty good NBA player himself. Ten of his 11 NBA seasons came with the Chicago Bulls and he averaged at least 10.1 points in each of those seasons in Chicago.
He was a two-time All-Star and finished with career averages of 14 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He got his first head-coaching job with the Bulls, who hired him ahead of the 1979 season. Sloan spent less than three seasons as the Bulls’ head coach before he was fired in February 1982. He spent more than three seasons as an assistant with the Jazz before the team hired him in December 1988.
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.
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