A long time ago, a wet-behind-the-ear coach by the name of Jerry Sloan resigned from his coaching position at the University of Evansville. He never had a chance to run a single practice or cuss out a single player.
And thank goodness he resigned—because that decision may have saved Sloan's life. Months later, tragedy would strike the Evansville basketball program. The team's charter flight crashed in the fog, at the Evansville Airport, killing all 29 passengers.
Before Sloan made his mark as a Hall of Fame coach, he was best known for his gritty persona as an NBA defender and two-time All-Star with the Chicago Bulls.
Sloan played 10 seasons in the "Windy City" and became known as “The Original Bull.” He’ll be remembered for his determination and will to compete, both as a player and a coach.
From 1966 to 1976, Sloan was the essence of toughness in Chicago and throughout the NBA. Even though he failed in his three-year stint as the Bulls' coach, it was his tenacity as a player that set him apart and led him down a brilliant coaching career with the Utah Jazz.
Sloan is one of 18 players in NBA history to be voted to the All-Defensive First Team at least four times and his No. 4 jersey is hanging from the rafters of the United Center in honor of his years of service to the Bulls.
Blood and guts was his calling card in those days...
As a coach, Sloan instills this attitude with the Utah Jazz. From the Stockton/Malone era, to his current team led by Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, every team Sloan has coached has this quality about it.
As most NBA fans realize, Sloan is just a flat-out winner. Nevertheless, he punished not winning an NBA title.
The 68-year-old has won in every conceivable way, both with NBA Hall of Famers or joe schmo. Hard work and having the ability to compete is all he asks.
Falling short in the Jazz's back-to-back NBA Finals appearances hurt the coach deeply, but in typical Sloan fashion,he said the team had to bounce back: “You can’t dwell on that. You can’t play backwards."
Perhaps his dogged tenacity is what keeps him going. Whether a championship comes or not, the longest tenured coach in American Pro Sports is definitely on the short-list of all-time great NBA coaches.
In honor of a legendary NBA coach, here are 10 things you need to know about Jerry Sloan.