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Along with the Jazz, I would also like to take the time to say, “Thanks, Coach.” Jerry Sloan was honored by the Jazz Friday night and will have a banner raised to the rafters in recognition. This has been a long time coming for a well-respected man who had been coach of the organization for nearly 23 years. The banner raised dons the number 1,223, the number of total wins Sloan had as an NBA coach.
“We all knew who was running the show,” said former Jazz man and NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone. “We respected him because he was the same every day. He was tough, but he was fair.”
Anyone who has ever seen a Jazz game live knows how fiery Coach Sloan could be and that he didn’t take any nonsense from anyone. He was hard on his players but well respected around the league because of his hard-nosed approach.
When he stepped down from his head coaching position in February 2011, he was and still is third on the list of all-time wins in the NBA with 1,223, and he is also the only coach in NBA history with 1,000 wins with one team.
He joined the great Pat Riley and Phil Jackson as the only coaches having 10 or more seasons with at least 50 wins. He took the Jazz to the playoffs for 16 straight years until barely missing the final playoff spot in 2004. Sixteen straight playoff seasons is unheard of in today’s sports landscape, and to orchestrate such an accomplishment goes to show the effectiveness he had as a coach.
With his outstanding tenure as a head coach, many forget what a great NBA player Jerry Sloan was. He was a two-time all-star, four-time all-NBA defensive first-team, and was the first Chicago Bull to have his jersey retired by the team. He also currently ranks fourth on the team’s all-time scoring list.
In addition to Friday’s recognition by the Jazz, Jerry Sloan’s accomplishments were recognized by the NBA when he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 — the same class as his longtime point guard, John Stockton.
He is admired in the state of Utah, and while he may have brought a lot of attention to himself on the floor by the way he coached, attention is not something this good old country boy really enjoyed. He has always stayed away from the limelight off of the court and continued to work on a farm throughout his basketball career — a small-town farm life that undoubtedly taught him his work ethic and paid dividends when it came time to expect that same work ethic from his players.
A great quote from Coach Sloan came during the 2006-07 season when he discussed former Jazz player C.J. Miles.
“I don’t care if he’s 19 or 30,” he said. “If he’s going to be on the floor in the NBA, he’s got to be able to step up and get after it. We can’t put diapers on him one night and a jock strap on him the next night. It’s just the way it is.”
Credit has to be given to the Miller family, owners of the Jazz, for some of what Sloan accomplished. They allowed a great coach to be himself and coach his way, a way that obviously worked. Jerry Sloan did a lot more for the community than help facilitate great basketball. He will be remembered as a Utah icon for many years to come. Thank you, Coach Sloan.