SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (CelebrityAccess) — The Utah Jazz announced Friday that longtime coach and Basketball Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan died. He was 78.
A statement from the Jazz said that Sloan died on May 22nd at his home in Salt Lake from complications of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
The first player selected by Chicago when the NBA drafted players for their 1966 expansion, Sloan became known as the “Original Bull” and developed a reputation as one of the league’s toughest defenders.
Sloan retired after 11 seasons when he was sidelined by a series of knee injuries, ending his career with an average of 14.0 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists over 755 career games with Chicago and Baltimore.
Following his retirement, he worked as a scout for the Bulls before landing his first coaching job at his alma mater, the University of Evansville.
It was a brief tenure however, and he retired after just a few days, citing personal reasons. It may have been a prescient decision as the new coach, along with the school’s entire basketball team, were killed several months later when a chartered DC-3 carrying the team crashed.
He next rejoined the Bulls as an assistant coach and in 1979, he was appointed head coach of the team and managed to reach the playoffs once before he was fired in 1982 amid a rocky start for the team’s season.
In 1984, he signed with Utah Jazz as a scout and was later promoted to assistant coach under Phil Leyden. Then, in the midst of a successful season, Leyden abruptly retired, leading to Sloan’s promotion to head coach of the organization.
Sloan continued as head coach of the Jazz for the next two decades but suffered a personal tragedy in 2004 when his wife of 41 years Bobbye Sloan died of breast cancer.
In 2008, he became the first coach in NBA history to win 1,000 games with a single franchise when the Jazz bested the Utah Thunder in a 104-97 victory.
Sloan and his longtime point guard John Stockton were inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
“This is a long way from McLeansboro, Illinois, and I am honored to be here,” Sloan said during his acceptance speech. “Being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame is an achievement unsurpassed in my career. From my beginning in McLeansboro, the game of basketball has introduced me to opportunities and life experiences I never dreamed.”
Despite the accolade, just three years later, following a loss to the Chicago Bulls, Sloan and his assistant coach Phil Johnson announced their resignations.
However, that didn’t end his association with the Jazz and he remained an advisor and scouting coach.
Sloan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia and revealed his diagnosis in 2016.
“I’m not looking for publicity,” he told The Salt Lake Tribune at the time. “But I feel I have to talk straight to people so they know what’s going on.”