The basketball world is abuzz with the conclusion of "The Last Dance," a 10-part documentary series on Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls in their double three-peat championship in the 1990s. The series added a particular focus on the last season 1997-1998, where the Bulls defeated the Utah Jazz with Jordan's iconic "The Last Shot." Perhaps poetically, then-coach of the Utah Jazz, Jerry Sloan, died on Friday. He was 78.
Sloan is the longest-tenured head coach with one franchise in any major professional sport. He served as the Jazz head coach for 23 years, retiring in 2011. The team said that in the last four years, Sloan has been suffering from Parkinsons' disease.
Jerry Sloan was inducted to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 2009. He coached for a total of 30 years with the majority of it spent as the Utah Jazz coach, including the 1997 and 1998 championship contender team that Jordan and the Chicago Bulls had to beat to clinch their 5th and 6th NBA titles.
As a Jazz coach, he led the Utah-based team to 15 consecutive playoff appearances and two straight finals appearances that they eventually lost to the Chicago Bulls.
What most people didn't know, Jerry Sloan was a Chicago Bulls player from 1966 to 1976, 10 of his 11 years as an NBA player. His number 4 jersey has been retired by the Bulls.
According to ESPN.com, current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder said that Sloan established the identity of the Utah Jazz basketball centered around unselfishness, toughness, and teamwork. Sloan is ranked 4th in all-time coaching wins behind Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens, and Gregg Popovich.
Last week, Jazz Legend Karl Malone asked everyone to pray for Sloan and mentioned, "he is not doing well." Malone also said that his former teammate, John Stockton, is aware of the situation, and the Jazz duo is discussing the matter with other players of the era, such as Dikembe Mutombo, Shaquille O'Neal, Reggie Miller, and Patrick Ewing.
Other coaches such as Pat Riley and George Karl paid tribute to the Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan on his passing.