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Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan passes away

The Hall of Fame coach spent 23 seasons as head coach of the Utah Jazz, leading the team to two NBA Finals and 20 playoff appearances.

Former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan talks with the media as part of a celebration of the 20th anniversary of the franchise s first Western Conference Championship prior to the game against the New York Knicks at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan passed away at the age of 78, the team announced early Friday morning. Sloan died due to complications with Parkinson’s disease as well as Lewy body dementia, the team said. Here’s the Jazz’s statement on his passing:

“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 coached the Jazz from 1985 to 2011, starting as an assistant for three seasons before taking over as head coach in 1988-89. He helped Utah reach the playoffs 20 times in his 23 seasons, most notably going to the NBA Finals in back-to-back years in 1997 and 1998. Sloan started his coaching career against perhaps his biggest nemesis in the NBA, the Chicago Bulls, from 1977 to 1982 before moving to Utah.

Sloan compiled a record of 1221-803 over his NBA coaching career. His win total ranks fourth all-time behind San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Lenny Wilkins and Don Nelson. Sloan was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, the same class as his former PG Stockton. Sloan also had a solid playing career in the NBA, going to two All-Star games 1967 and 1969 while playing with the Bulls. He played 11 seasons for Chicago and Baltimore, and was the first player in Bulls history to get his No. 4 jersey retired.

Sloan’s passing is tragic, though it was nice to see him pop up in ‘The Last Dance’ documentary, chronicling the Chicago Bulls dynasty in the 90s. As the Jazz head coach, Sloan was shown being interviewed postgame a few times during those two Finals. His most memorable clip being the fact he had no idea Michael Jordan was sick during “The Flu Game” during the 1997 NBA Finals. In Sloan’s defense, Jordan scored 38 points in the win for Chicago, so the Jazz coach thinking MJ looked OK was not exactly a surprise.