Longtime Utah Jazz head coach and Bulls great Jerry Sloan passed away Friday morning at the age of 78 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, the Jazz announced.
“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,” a statement reads. “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.”
Sloan’s name hangs from the United Center rafters, as well, in the form of his No. 4 Bulls jersey. He played 10 seasons with the franchise, including its inaugural year, after being plucked from the Baltimore Bullets in the 1966 expansion draft. Sloan made two All-Star teams and earned four All-Defensive first team selections — the latter was his calling card.
He also became the first player in Bulls history to have his number retired in 1978, then coached the team for three seasons from 1979-1982. His contributions to the Bulls earned him the affectionate moniker, “The Original Bull."
"Jerry Sloan was 'The Original Bull' whose tenacious defense and nightly hustle on the court represented the franchise and epitomized the city of Chicago," Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Jerry was the face of the Bulls organization from its inception through the mid-1970s, and very appropriately, his uniform No. 4 was the first jersey retired by the team. A great player and and a Hall-of-Fame NBA coach, most importantly, Jerry was a great person. Our sympathies go out to the Sloan family and all his many fans."
Sloan went on to work for the Jazz for 34 years in positions ranging from head coach, assistant, scout and senior basketball adviser. He finished his 23-year run as head coach of the Jazz as the third-winningest in NBA history with a record of 1,221-803, and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.
“It was an honor and a privilege to have one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history coaching our team,” the Miller family, which owns the Jazz, 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. 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.”