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John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan, Pick-N-Roll

The architect of the Utah Jazz dynasty ascends to basketball heaven at the age of 78.

When you think about the glory days of the Utah Jazz, three names and one game come to mind. John Stockton, Karl Malone, Jerry Sloan, Pick-N-Roll. 

Sloan, one of the legendary coaches in NBA history, passed away earlier this morning (May 22) at age 78, finally succumbing to complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. 

From the Utah Jazz:

Jerry Sloan will always be synonymous with the Utah Jazz. He will forever be a part of the Utah Jazz organization and we join his family, friends and fans in mourning his loss. We are so thankful for what he accomplished here in Utah and the decades of dedication, loyalty and tenacity he brought to our franchise. 

“Our Hall of Fame coach for 23 years, Jerry had a tremendous impact on the Jazz franchise as expressed by his banner hanging in the arena rafters. His 1,223 Jazz coaching wins, 20 trips to the NBA Playoffs and two NBA Finals appearances are remarkable achievements. His hard-nosed approach only made him more beloved. Even after his retirement, his presence at Jazz games always brought a roaring response from the crowd.

“Like Stockton and Malone as players, Jerry Sloan epitomized the organization. He will be greatly missed. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Tammy, the entire Sloan family and all who knew and loved him.”

Sloan held down the fort for 23 seasons as Jazz head coach and with Stockton and Malone leading the charge, he went toe-to-toe with some of the greatest coaching minds in NBA history — from Pat Riley to the Zen Master (11 NBA titles as coach). He never wavered and rarely, if ever, got outcoached. 

Sloan was inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame in 2009, is the fourth-winningest coach in NBA history (1,221-803), and has seven division titles under his belt. 

He grew up on a farm and became an inspirational example of the American Dream.

He also guided the Jazz to 16 consecutive winning seasons and thirteen 50-win seasons. Sloan’s teams made 20 trips to the NBA Playoffs (19 with Utah: 1989-2003, ’07-10) and his 98 playoff wins are the sixth most in NBA history.

Sloan’s consistency was his greatest gift to the game. You knew what to expect from the Jazz. Dubs. 

Sloan is one of just seven coaches in league history to win at least 50 games in 10 different seasons (Rick Adelman, Don Nelson, Pat Riley, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich and George Karl). Sloan’s 16 consecutive winning seasons (1988-2004) are fourth-most all-time.

Coming Up Short, Still Standing Tall

Sloan gave it his all in those ’97 and ’98 Finals against Jordan’s Bulls, losing both series in six games. Chicago was just too deep and too talented. And despite the fact that Bryon Russell is still so sick about giving up that shot to Jordan that he wouldn’t even appear on “The Last Dance,” Sloan’s legacy doesn’t take the same hit.  

He’s iconic in that he represents one of the last pedigrees of coaches who stayed with a team for more than a decade. In an era where coaches get hired and fired quicker than you can say “playoff loss”, coaches of Sloan’s ilk, staying power, are nonexistent. 

Sloan didn’t take many losses during his 34 years with the Jazz organization. There were 245 NBA head coaching changes during his Jazz coaching career. He was a rock, firmly implanted in the culture and spirit of Utah; outlasting eras, rules changes, style changes. 

This pinpoint consistency and winning formula’s what allowed him to capture the NBA Western Conference Coach of the Month 10 times during his career. It’s also what compelled Sporting News to select him as 2003-04 NBA Coach of the Year (an award voted on by his peers) after leading the Jazz to a 42-40 record in 2003-04 in the first season without John Stockton and Malone.  

Sloan was the first coach to ever win 1,000 games with one franchise. And he was a product of the game. A two-time NBA All-Star as a player (1967, 1969) across 11 NBA seasons with Chicago and Baltimore (1965-76). He became the first player in Bulls’ history to have his number retired. Sloan balled like he coached; laid back for the most part, but always willing to show that inner passion burning with ferocious, gracious competitiveness. 

He’s battled all the greats from Magic to MJ to Lebron James.

The history of NBA basketball can’t be told without Jerry Sloan and that’s a distinction that can never be undersold.

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