Jerry Sloan, the fiery Bulls guard and Hall of Fame coach of the Jazz, dies at 78

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Basketball

CHICAGO -- Jerry Sloan, the fiery guard and Hall of Fame coach whose No. 4 Chicago Bulls jersey hangs from the United Center rafters, died Friday morning from Parkinson's disease and dementia. He was 78.

The McLeansboro, Ill., native was a two-time All-Star for the Bulls, whom he later coached, and long will be associated with backcourt mate Norm Van Lier as the defensive backbone for the Dick Motta-led Bulls.

"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 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 coach the Utah Jazz for nearly 23 seasons and led them to the 1997 and 1998 NBA Finals against the dynasty-era Bulls, losing both matchups. Sloan entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in April 2009 in the same class as his longtime Jazz guard, John Stockton.

As coach and player, Sloan was known for his toughness. Jerry Krause scouted Sloan during his college career at Evansville and later helped select him with the fourth pick in the 1965 NBA draft for the Baltimore Bullets.

"I would go to his games and chart how many fouls he took," Krause told the Tribune in a 2016 interview. "He'd get bowled over 10 times a game. He didn't care."


The Bulls picked Sloan in the 1966 expansion draft, and he played the rest of his career in Chicago. In 11 NBA seasons, he averaged 14 points and 7.4 rebounds and was a six-time All-Defensive Team selection.

"He would make the All-Star team today just on his defense," longtime Bulls teammate Bob Love said in 2017. "These guys now running down the floor? Nobody would've wanted to mess with Jerry. He was tough as nails."

After coaching the Bulls for two-plus seasons from 1979-82, Sloan joined the Jazz as an assistant in 1985 and took over for coach Frank Layden 18 games into the 1988-89 season. Sloan remained in that position until abruptly resigning Feb. 10, 2011, a day after a home game against the Bulls.

"My time is up and it's time to move on," an emotional Sloan said at a news conference in Salt Lake City announcing his retirement. "It's a long time to be in one organization. I've been blessed. Today is a new day. When I get this over with, I'll feel better."


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