Jerry Sloan, the Hall of Fame head coach who took the Utah Jazz to back-to-back NBA Finals appearances in the 1990s, died on Friday morning following a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78 years old.
The Jazz released a statement on Friday morning announcing Sloan’s passing:
“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.
“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 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.
“Like Stockton and Malone as players, Jerry Sloan epitomized the organization. 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 entered the league in 1965. He was the No. 4 overall pick in the NBA Draft following a decorated career at Evansville, and over 11 seasons — one with the Washington Bullets and 10 with the Chicago Bulls — he established himself as one of the league’s premier defenders, earning four first-team All-Defense selections, a pair of second-team All-Defense nods, and a pair of distinctions as an All-Star. In 1978, two years after he retired as a player, his jersey became the first that the Bulls ever retired.
Sloan transitioned quickly into coaching, serving as an assistant in Chicago before taking over full-time ahead of the 1979 campaign. While his time in the Windy City didn’t last, he eventually made his way to Utah, first serving as scout and an assistant before becoming the greatest coach in franchise history 1988. He led the team up until 2011, and in that time, Utah reached unprecedented highs. He won the division seven times, made the playoffs a remarkable 20 times in 23 years, and won the Western Conference in 1997 and 1998.
The Sloan era in Utah ended prematurely in 2011, as he resigned midseason, but he eventually returned to the organization in an advisory role in 2013. At the time of his retirement from coaching, Sloan’s 1,223 wins were the third-most in NBA history, a mark that now sits fourth behind Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, and Gregg Popovich. In 2009, he was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame alongside longtime point guard John Stockton, and in 2014, the Jazz raised a “1,223” banner into the rafters in his honor.