Tributes are pouring out for Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Sloan, who famously led the Utah Jazz against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.
Tributes are pouring out for Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Sloan, who famously led the Utah Jazz against Michael Jordan’s Bulls.

Basketball coach of Last Dance fame dies

Long-serving Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan died on Saturday (AEDT) due to complications from Parksinson's disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

Sloan was in charge at Utah for 23 years, making the playoffs 20 times including two memorable, albeit unsuccessful, trips to the finals against Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls in 1997 and 1998.

Perfecting an offensive system centred around stars Karl Malone and John Stockton, Sloan was an old school mentor who finished his career with the third most wins by a coach in NBA history (1221), the sixth best winning percentage (.603) and 98 playoff wins.

"Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz," the team said in a statement.

Sloan was also a standout player before becoming a coach, playing 11 seasons with Chicago and Baltimore and making two All-Star appearances. He was the first player in Bulls' history to have his number retired in 1978.

"Until Jordan came along, Sloan was Mr. Chicago Bull. Everyone knew that," longtime Bulls reporter Sam Smith wrote in 2009.

Jordan tormented Sloan in 1998 too.
Jordan tormented Sloan in 1998 too.

Tributes are pouring in from across the league, including Bulls great Scottie Pippen.

"I loved everything about Jerry Sloan, from the way he played to the way he coached," Pippen wrote. "He was a tenacious competitor who represented the Bulls of the 70s so well. Jerry became one of my favourite coaches when he was on the 1996 Dream Team staff and it was an honour to learn from him."

Spurs coach Gregg Popovoich, who recently passed Sloan in career wins to move into third sport all-time, told ESPN Sloan was "a mentor for me from afar until I got to know him. A man who suffered no fools, he possessed a humour, often disguised, and had a heart as big as the prairie".

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

 

Originally published as NBA coach of Last Dance fame dies

Jerry Sloan watches Jeff Hornacek guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls duringthe 1997 NBA Finals.
Jerry Sloan watches Jeff Hornacek guard Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls duringthe 1997 NBA Finals.

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