Jerry Sloan, a player known as “The Original Bull” in Chicago before becoming a legendary head coach of the Utah Jazz, died Friday. He was 78.
Many in the NBA community took to social media to pay tribute to Sloan, who retired in 2011 as the longest-tenured head coach with one franchise in any major professional sport.
“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, now in his sixth season with Utah, spoke fondly about his time with Sloan and what it means to follow in his footsteps.
“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,” Snyder tweeted. “He will be missed and mourned by the Jazz family, the NBA and beyond.”
Opponents also paid homage to Sloan, including Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul and Pat Riley, the former Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Miami Heat head coach who is now the Heat’s president.
Prayers are with Jerry Sloan’s family today. The game lost a legend 🙏🏾
— Chris Paul (@CP3) May 22, 2020
Pat Riley statement on the passing of Jerry Sloan
“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.” pic.twitter.com/Xv42JvBmO4
— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 22, 2020
Sloan left an enduring legacy in Salt Lake City, coaching 133 players during his time as head coach of the Jazz. Many of the franchise’s prominent names shared their memories and appreciation for their coach.
“I think that for all of his intensity on the court and his demand for doing it the right way, the fact that he’d come to shootaround with his John Deere hat on and just be so down to earth in terms of who he was off the court, I think it’s the most endearing quality about him that really resonated with players,” former Jazz All-Star center Mark Eaton told ESPN’s Eric Woodyard. “In the crazy world of the NBA and all the crazy stories you hear every day and here’s this guy who’s from [Illinois] the heartland of America who just came to work, put his work boots on and just said, ‘Let’s get to it.’ It was just something that is a rare find in the world today and I think that’s what made him so unique and what everybody loved about him.”
“I remember him sitting there and watching pretty much every practice years after he was retired. I also know that he really respected hard work, more than anything, and I could sense that he really respected and loved players that have that mindset since the first day I spoke with him.”
Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert (via ESPN.com’s Eric Woodyard)
Darrell Griffith, who along with Eaton has his number retired by the Jazz, echoed Sloan’s impact on the franchise.
“He brought a lot to the game. He knew a lot about the game, he was a student of the game, he learned a lot from [former Jazz coach Frank Layden] and as a player, he brought that to the players on the floor,” Griffith said. “He brought a lot to the game and I learned a lot from him as a coach and as a human being, so it was sad news for me to hear today.”
Other former Jazz stars such as Gordon Hayward, Carlos Boozer and Deron Williams took to Twitter and Instagram to pay their respects to Sloan.
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time playing for Coach Sloan, but coming in as a rookie he had a major impact on my transition to the @NBA. I’m grateful for that. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DYJ4F4CvRw
— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) May 22, 2020
Heaven better be ready for you Jerry. Go coach ’em up! Thanks for the privilege of playing for you. Rest In Peace coach. pic.twitter.com/doTeGdBNBX
— Thurl Bailey (@bigTbailey) May 22, 2020
RIP Coach.. You don’t think of the Jazz without thinking of Coach Sloan, Thankyou. https://t.co/89I7uUeZqy
— Joe Ingles (@Joeingles7) May 22, 2020
R.I.P Jerry Sloan 🙏🏽
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) May 22, 2020