Gordon Hayward is one of a handful of active NBA players who can personally attest to Jerry Sloan's legacy.
Hayward was a rookie with the Jazz during the 2010-11 season, Sloan's final campaign as Utah's head coach. While Sloan left the team midway through the season, the Hall of Fame coach still left a lasting impression on the young Hayward.
The Boston Celtics forward shared that impression shortly after Sloan died Friday at age 78.
I didn't get to spend a lot of time playing for Coach Sloan, but coming in as a rookie he had a major impact on my transition to the @NBA. I'm grateful for that. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DYJ4F4CvRw— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) May 22, 2020
Hayward developed into an excellent NBA player, making the 2017 NBA All-Star team with the Jazz before signing a maximum contract with the Celtics the following offseason.
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Sloan apparently helped play a role in Hayward's development, bestowing on the rookie his wealth of experience over 26 seasons as an NBA head coach -- three with the Chicago Bulls and 23 with the Jazz.
Sloan's lone half-season with Hayward didn't exactly go smoothly: The head coach's infamous spat with star guard Deron Williams led to him resigning 54 games into the season.
Many of Sloan's former players still view him fondly, though -- among them ex-Jazz big man Paul Millsap, who shared a message similar to Hayward's on Friday.
Thank you for the opportunities, thank you for the lessons, thank you for help mold me into a great basketball player and man. I will always bring my “lunch pail” to work! RIP Coach Sloan 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾 pic.twitter.com/GPICXmG7N6— Paul Millsap (@Paulmillsap4) May 22, 2020