Former Jazz coach Sloan dies at 78

Jerry Sloan, who spent 23 years as coach of the Utah Jazz and took the team to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, died Friday at 78. The team said that for four years he had Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.

Sloan presided over the glory days of the John Stockton and Karl Malone pick-and-roll-to-perfection era in Salt Lake City. He is fourth on the NBA’s victory list.

Sloan was a two-time All-Star as a player with the Chicago Bulls, led his alma mater, Evansville, to a pair of NCAA college division national championships and was an assistant coach on the 1996 U.S. Olympic team that won a gold medal at the Atlanta Games.

Sloan had 1,221 NBA coaching wins, behind only Lenny Wilkens, Don Nelson and Gregg Popovich. And Sloan’s 23 seasons with the Jazz are the second-longest string with one team in NBA history; Popovich is in his 24th season with the San Antonio Spurs.

Sloan spent 34 years in the Jazz organization, as head coach, assistant, scout or senior basketball adviser.

Sloan was the coach at Evansville for all of five days in 1977. He then made an arduous — and fateful — decision.

He was going to take over for his college coach, Arad McCutcheon, who was retiring. Sloan signed a contract but backed out quickly, citing undisclosed personal reasons. Later that year, a plane carrying the Evansville team and coaches crashed, killing all 29 people aboard.

Had he not left Evansville, Sloan could have easily been on that plane.

He coached Chicago for parts of three seasons, going 94-121. His playing career there was cut short by knee issues, and he averaged 14.0 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists in 755 games.

— The Associated Press

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