Jerry Sloan, the Utah Jazz’s Hall of Fame coach and beloved Beehive State icon, dies at 78

by 24USATVMay 22, 2020, 3:40 p.m. 18
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“The tough guy who was always the first to come to your rescue, the first out on the court when anything went wrong, to have your back, the guy you didn't want to mess with. And so it's difficult because [he was] so instrumental in your development, not just as a player, but as a man,” said longtime Jazz forward Thurl Bailey. “It was the little things sometimes: 'Tuck your shirt in, son, respect the game. Be on time. Be a leader. Don't take any crap on the court from anybody. Protect your teammates.' It's tough. It's tough. But Jerry would obviously want you to buck up and go do your job, and do the best you can, and have an effect on people's lives in a positive way. I love that man. I always have, always will.”

“He was one of those iconic coaches who was a wonderful example of consistency, mental and physical toughness, demanding but fair, suffered no fools, took no prisoners,” Spurs coach and executive Gregg Popovich said. “And we did our best to try to emulate all that, because it was pretty impressive and pretty successful. He was a wonderful coach, and an even better human being.”

“I had a great deal of respect for him. He had great retention. He had a lot of what I thought Johnny Wooden had. Johnny Wooden, people don’t realize this: he never scouted opponents; he said, ‘They got to worry about us. I don’t have to worry about them.’ And Jerry felt the same way. Jerry said, no matter who we played, ‘This is how we play. We play tough defense, we go over the top, we beat guys to the spot, we got our hands up, we’re moving our feet.’ He was like Vince Lombardi on defense. And he thought that that was the constant. And he added that to our team,” Layden told the Tribune. “I said this when I retired and Jerry was taking over: ‘Jerry will take this team to another level. I’ve taken them as far as I can go. I don’t think I can do anything else. But Jerry’s gonna take it to the next level.’ And of course, that’s what he did.”

Because he never enjoyed being in the spotlight, Sloan admitted giving his acceptance speech on such a huge stage was “pretty tough for me. It’s just hard for me to talk about myself. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything. I’ve always been team-oriented and, to talk about myself, is a difficult thing to do."

In announcing his death, the Miller family, which owns the Jazz, released this statement: “It was an honor and a privilege to have one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history coaching our team. We have appreciated our relationship with Jerry and acknowledge his dedication to and passion for the Utah Jazz. He has left an enduring legacy with this franchise and our family. The far-reaching impact of his life has touched our city, state and the world as well as countless players, staff and fans. We pray his family will find solace and comfort in Jerry’s life. The Miller family and Jazz organization will be proud to honor him with a permanent tribute.”

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