CHICAGO – In the early days, long before Michael Jordan took the team to six championships, he was one of the faces of a new franchise.
That’s why Jerry Sloan is known to many as the “Original Bull.”
It’s that part of his time in basketball that’s being remember on Friday after his death at the age of 78.
The Utah Jazz announced the death of their former coach and Bulls guard after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia.
The McLeansboro, Illinois native spent ten of his 11 NBA playing seasons with the Bulls and was twice named an NBA All-Star. Hed later coach the team for 2 1/2 seasons before going to Utah, where was with the team from 1988-2011.
“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,” said the Jazz in a statement released by the team. “We are so thankful for what he accomplished here in Utah and the decades of dedication, loyalty and tenacity he brought to our franchise.”
Before that tenure with the Jazz, Sloan was best known for a standout career with the Bulls in the early days of the franchise. After spending his first NBA season with the Baltimore Bullets, Sloan joined the Bulls in their inaugural season of 1966.
Immediately he became one of the teams best players, making the All-Star team in 1967 and 1969 while also being named to the NBAs All-Defensive team four times. Sloan helped the Bulls get to the playoffs eight times during his tenure with the franchise, including the Western Conference Finals in 1974 and 1975.
In 1978, Sloan’s No. 4 became the first in franchise history to be retired.
The next year, Sloan took over as head coach of the Bulls and led them to the playoffs in the 1980-1981 season, but was fired the following winter after a 19-32 start.
It was in Utah where Sloan made a name for himself in the coaching ranks, as he won 1,127 games over the course of 23 seasons. That included a pair of Western Conference championships in 1997 and 1998, but each time his Utah squad lost to the Bulls in the NBA Finals.
Sloan ranks third in league history with 1,221 victories and is just the fifth coach in the NBA to have won 1,000 or more games.