As the world of sports finishes the ESPN documentary series “The Last Dance” detailing the famed story of Michael Jordan’s final season with the Chicago Bulls, there’s another Bull the world also is remembering on this day, and to many he is considered “The Original Bull”.
Jerry Sloan, head coach of the Utah Jazz for 23 seasons, passed away on Friday May 22nd, 2020 after fighting Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. He was 78 years old. To some he is known for his years as a Chicago Bull. Being the first player to have his number retired with the Bulls organization in 1978. But to most, and especially those of us here in the state of Utah, he is known as Coach Sloan.
Jerry was very much an old school type of player, and he brought that same mindset to the Utah Jazz.
Hired in 1988 after then head coach Frank Layden abruptly retired Jerry Sloan was immediately thrown into the Head Coaching job. Jerry didn’t think he would make it 20 games as an NBA head coach, let alone survive and succeed enough to get inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009 after accumulating 1,221 wins and 13 50+ winning seasons along the way. Coach Sloan revolutionized the way the NBA was played by his use of the Pick N’ Roll. Though to him, he was still just the kid from McLeansboro, Illinois.
Coach Sloan was consistent with his work ethic, and he required the same out of everyone. But what many outside the state of Utah don’t know, Coach Sloan was more than just a coach, he was a friend to his players, coaches, and media members. After each game, he would meet with the media staff in the press room and eat dinner with them, that sort of thing never happens in today’s NBA.
Media member Greg Bolerjack was quoted saying. “When Jerry would see me in the hallway on his way to the press room, he would stop and say to me, “Boller, it’s time to get groceries.” And “get groceries” always meant, time to get something to eat”.
Coach Sloan meant so much to the state of Utah. He represented the hard work, nose to the grindstone, blue collar worker. He was not only our coach, but he treated all of us like he was our friend. Coach Sloan not only took the state of Utah’s (at the time) only professional sports team to back to back NBA Finals, but he also made sure his team was competitive and tried there hardest no matter the outcome.
Being in a small TV market state like Utah, there’s no telling if the Utah Jazz even are in Utah today without the contributions of Coach Sloan.
Though he won’t be sporting his John Deer hat and greeting fans with a smile and a handshake on his way to his row 11 seat at Vivint Smart Home Arena, he will never be forgotten, even for just being a kid from McLeansboro, Illinois.