Jerry Sloan Dead: Legendary Utah Jazz Coach Was 78

Jerry Sloan

Getty Jerry Sloan

Legendary former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan died Friday due to complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia at age 78, according to a statement posted on the Jazz’s website.

Sloan coached the Jazz for 23 years, leading his team to the playoffs 19 times including 15 years in a row over the final part of his tenure. Over that timeframe, the Jazz were 1,127-682. The team reached the NBA Finals in back-to-back years in 1997 and 1998, losing both times to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Sloan is fourth on the NBA’s all-time wins list behind Gregg Popovich, Lenny Wilkens and Don Nelson. He retired in 2011.

The statement from the Jazz said, “Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz. 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.”

1. Sloan Married His High School Sweetheart

Sloan was born on March 28, 1942, in McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan married his high school sweetheart, Bobbye, in 1963. The couple had three children together, one son, Brian, and two daughters, Kathy and Holly.

Bobbye died in 2004 after two separate battles against cancer. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997 and died from pancreatic cancer in 2004 after 41 years of marriage.

In 2006, Sloan married Tammy Jessop, according to the Deseret News.

2. Sloan Led His Team to Two National Titles in College as a Player

Sloan was an excellent college basketball player. In 1964 and 1965, he led the University of Evansville Aces to two straight national championships in the NCAA College Division (now called Division II).

During both those NCAA College Division Basketball Tournament runs, Sloan was named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament.

Moreover, the 1965 team Sloan led went undefeated for the entire year at 29-0.

3. Sloan Was ‘The Original Bull’ in Chicago

Before Michael Jordan’s name was synonymous with the Chicago Bulls, Sloan’s name was the one most people thought of whenever the topic of the Bulls came up.

Sloan was a two-time NBA All-Star and six-time All-Defensive selection during his playing career, which lasted from 1965 through 1976. He was originally drafted by the Baltimore Bullets but played only one year there before spending the rest of his stalwart career with the Bulls.

Sloan was known as a hard-nosed defender who averaged 14.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. In 1978, he became the first Bulls player to have his jersey retired, and his No. 4 jersey still hangs from the rafters in Chicago today.

Those impressive achievements earned Sloan the title of “The Original Bull.”

4. Sloan Spent 34 Years With the Jazz

Sloan started his coaching career with the Bulls but went 94-121 in Chicago and didn’t find his groove coaching until he was hired by the Jazz.

In total, Sloan worked for the Jazz organization for 34 years as either head coach, assistant, scout or senior basketball adviser. Sloan started with the Jazz during the 1983-84 season as a scout. He became an assistant to head coach Frank Layden on Nov. 19, 1984, and was named the sixth head coach in franchise history four years later after Layden resigned.

By then end of his time in Utah, “The Original Bull” became synonymous with the Jazz, becoming the team’s winningest coach in terms of both total wins (1,127) and winning percentage (.623). Additionally, Sloan is the longest-tenured coach in franchise history.

5. Sloan’s Elite Coaching Credentials Won’t Soon Be Equaled

Sloan’s impressive coaching resume won’t soon be equaled. When he retired almost a decade ago, Sloan was among the very elite in terms of NBA coaching accomplishments and that remains the same today.

Sloan was the first NBA coach to win 1,000 games with a single team. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

A banner with his name on it hangs at the home of the Jazz, Vivint Smart Home arena, next to five of his former players whose numbers are retired: Mark Eaton (53), Darrell Griffith (35), Jeff Hornacek (14), Karl Malone (32) and John Stockton (12).

Per the Jazz’s statement, “Like Stockton and Malone as players, Jerry Sloan epitomized the organization. He will be greatly missed.”

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Twitter: @Kelsey_McCarson