Legendary NBA coach Jerry Sloan has died at 78 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, his former team, the Utah Jazz, announced Friday. Sloan memorably led the Jazz to back-to-back Finals appearances against Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in the 1990s.
The Hall of Fame coach spent 23 seasons as a coach with the Jazz and finished his career with 1,221 victories, the third most wins in NBA history. The team said in a statement that 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,” the team said. “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, along with star players John Stockton and Karl Malone, were crucial to the team’s success in the 1990s and Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998. The team was recently featured in “The Last Dance” documentary, which focuses on Jordan’s final championship run in 1998.
Before he coached for the Jazz, Sloan had a successful career as a player. CBS Sports reports he was drafted No. 4 overall out of the University of Evansville by the Washington Bullets in 1965, and was traded to the expansion Chicago Bulls one year into his career. As their point guard, Sloan made the All-Star Game twice and earned four All-Defensive Team honors. His No. 4 jersey is retired by the Bulls.
He moved into coaching in Chicago before landing a job with the Utah Jazz.
Billionaire businesswoman Gail Miller, who owns the Jazz, and her family also issued a statement on the death of Sloan, calling it “an honor and a privilege to have one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history coaching our team.”
“We have appreciated our relationship with Jerry and acknowledge his dedication to and passion for the Utah Jazz,” the Miller family said in a statement. “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.”