Jerry Sloan Honored by NBA After Legendary Utah Jazz Head Coach Dies at 78

The NBA world has paid tribute to Jerry Sloan after the legendary former Utah Jazz head coach died on Friday at the age of 78.

Fourth on the all-time list of NBA coaches in terms of games won, Sloan died of from complications of Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia.

Up until his retirement in 2011, Sloan won 1,221 games during 23 seasons as the Jazz's head coach, taking Utah to the playoffs 19 times.

"Jerry Sloan was among the NBA's most respected and admired legends," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said 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 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer: persistence, discipline, drive and selflessness."

Current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said Sloan's legacy will live long in Salt Lake City, where he instilled crucial values into the franchise.

"The clear identity that he established for Jazz Basketball—unselfishness, toughness and the essential importance of Team—has always left a palpable responsibility to strive for in carrying forward," he tweeted.

"He will be missed and mourned by the Jazz family, the NBA and beyond."

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is one of only three coaches to have won more NBA games than Sloan, described the former Utah Jazz head coach as a mentor.

"He was a mentor for me from afar until I got to know him," he said in a statement. "A man who suffered no fools, he possessed a humor, often disguised, and had a heart as big as the prairie."

Rest easy, Coach ❤️


— utahjazz (@utahjazz) May 22, 2020

Born in McLeansboro, Illinois, Sloan spent 11 seasons in the NBA as a player after being selected with the fourth overall pick by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1955 NBA Draft.

He became the Bulls head coach in 1979 but was fired after three relative unsuccessful seasons. In 1985, Sloan joined the Utah Jazz as assistant, before being promoted as head coach three years later.

Built around the phenomenal duo of Karl Malone and John Stockton, the Jazz reached the Western Conference Finals five times under Sloan and twice it made to the NBA Finals, losing to the Chicago Bulls on both occasions.

"It was a privilege to play against a Jerry Sloan coached team, I always knew that we would be severely tested," Miami Heat president Pat Riley said. "His overall philosophy on both sides of the ball was fundamentally solid and always one step ahead of the game."

Sloan was the Utah's assistant coach when the Jazz and Riley's Los Angeles Lakers faced off in a memorable Western Conference Semifinals in 1988, which the Lakers won in seven games en route to a fourth title in seven years, which also proved to be Riley's last in L.A.

A year later, in his first seasons as head coach, Sloan took the Jazz to the playoff, only for Utah to lose in five games against George Karl's Golden State Warriors.

When Karl moved to the Seattle in 1992, he and Sloan faced each other again with Utah losing to the SuperSonics in five games in the first round in 1993 and in seven games in the conference finals three years later.

"I'd put Jerry as one of the top three or four all time I've ever faced," Karl, who sits two spots behind Sloan at No. 6 on the all-time coaching wins list, was quoted as saying by ESPN. "His teams were really difficult to play against. They were very tough-minded, very team-oriented.

"Jerry would not tolerate a lot of the NBA b******t that goes on. He was demanding, but respectful. Every Utah Jazz player I ever spoke to had nothing but great things to say about him."

Karl is fourth in the list of coaches with the most playoff games against Sloan behind Rick Adelman, Don Nelson and Phil Jackson.

The latter prevailed over Sloan twice in back-to-back NBA Finals, with the Chicago Bulls defeating the Jazz in 1997 and in 1998, Jackson's final season in Chicago which was recently revisited in The Last Dance.

"Jerry was a farmer at heart," he was quoted as saying. "We all enjoyed his fire and his sportsmanship... both ends of the coaching spectrum."

Utah Jazz, Karl Malone
Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan argues with the officials during a game against the Sacramento Kings, 26 February 2002, at the ARCO Arena in Sacramento, California. John G. Mabanglo/AFP/Getty