Los Angeles (AFP) – Jerry Sloan, who guided the Utah Jazz for 23 seasons during a Hall of Fame coaching career before retiring in 2011, died Friday at age 78, the team announced.
Sloan, a two-time NBA All-Star who played 11 seasons as a guard before his epic coaching career, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, which he had been fighting since at least 2015.
Sloan, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, was taken by the Baltimore Bullets with the fourth overall pick of the 1965 NBA Draft and played one season for them before spending a decade with the Chicago Bulls, who retired his number four jersey in 1978, an unprecedented move by the club.
After a 2 1/2-season stint coaching the Bulls from 1979-82, Sloan began his epic tenure with the Jazz in 1988 and guided Utah into the playoffs for 15 consecutive seasons from 1989-2003.
With Karl Malone and John Stockton as a superstar duo, the Jazz enjoyed their best seasons under Sloan in 1996-97 and 1997-98, reaching the NBA Finals only to lose to the Michael Jordan-led Chicago Bulls each time.
“It was an honor and a privilege to have one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history coaching our team,” Jazz owner Gail Miller 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.”
Sloan finished his coaching career with the third most wins in NBA history (1,221-803) and seven division titles. His teams reached the playoffs 20 times.
“Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz. He will forever be a part of the Utah Jazz organization,” the team said in a statement.
“We are so thankful for what he accomplished here in Utah and the decades of dedication, loyalty and tenacity he brought to our franchise.”
The longest tenured coach with one franchise of all major professional US sports teams when he retired during the 2010-11 campaign, Sloan was a stalwart for the Jazz while there were 245 NBA head coaching changes among other clubs.
“Jerry Sloan was among the NBA’s most respected and admired legends,” said league commissioner Adam Silver in a statement.
“He was the first coach to win 1,000 games with the same organization, which came to embody the qualities that made Jerry a Basketball Hall of Famer: persistence, discipline, drive and selflessness… we benefited greatly from his humility, kindness, dignity and class.”