Jerry Sloan was an American National Basketball Association (NBA) player and head coach, and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. NBA commissioner David Stern referred to Sloan as “one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history”. Sloan had a career regular-season win–loss record of 1,221–803, placing him third all-time in NBA wins at the time he retired.
Sloan was only the fifth coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 victories and is one of two coaches in NBA history to record 1,000 wins with one club (the Utah Jazz). He also coached for one team longer than anyone in NBA history.
Born and raised in Gobbler’s Knob, 15 miles (24 km) south of McLeansboro, Illinois, Sloan was the youngest of 10 children and was raised by a single mother after his father died when Jerry was 4 years old. He would wake up at 4:30 a.m. to do farm chores and then walk almost two miles to get to school in time for 7 a.m. basketball practice. Sloan graduated an all-state player from McLeansboro High School in 1960.
Sloan attended the University of Evansville and played college basketball for the Evansville Purple Aces men’s basketball team. He was selected 19th overall in the 1964 NBA draft by the Baltimore Bullets. But he remained in college and led the Purple Aces to another Division II national title. He then was selected fourth in the 1965 NBA draft by the Bullets. The Chicago Bulls, an expansion team, selected Sloan in the 1966 NBA expansion draft.
He became known as “the Original Bull”, known for his tenacious defense, leading them to the playoffs in their first season, and to their first and only division title before the Michael Jordan era; after a series of knee injuries, he retired in 1976. He scored more than 18 points a game in 1970–71, and had three other seasons of more than 15 points per game.
While at Evansville, coach Arad McCutchan suggested that Sloan coach at his alma mater. After retiring in 1976, Sloan took the Evansville job, but withdrew after five days. That same season, the Evansville basketball team and coaching staff were killed in a plane crash at Evansville Airport.
Two years later, Sloan was hired by the Bulls as a scout. After one season in this role, he became an assistant coach with the team. Later, in 1979, Sloan was promoted to the position of head coach. He held the position for less than three seasons, winning 94 games and losing 121. He led the team to the playoffs in his second year, but was fired after a poor start during the following campaign.
Sloan married his high-school sweetheart, Bobbye. After a well-publicized six-year battle against breast cancer, she died of pancreatic cancer in 2004. They had three children and were married 41 years. One of his sons, Brian, was an all-state center for McLeansboro High School and was a member of its undefeated 1984 Class A IHSA basketball championship team. After leading the Foxes to the championship, Brian Sloan was named Mr. Basketball and was a McDonald’s All-American for 1984 in Illinois.
Brian Sloan also played five seasons under Coach Bob Knight at Indiana University, collecting an NCAA title in 1987, where he pledged Beta Epsilon. Brian’s son, and Jerry’s grandson, Grant is a member of the Indiana University baseball team. Later, in 2006, Jerry Sloan tied a knot to Tammy Jessop, in Salt Lake City. Sloan had a stepson, Rhett, as a result of this marriage.
Sloan was known to wear John Deere hats, collected antique furniture and dolls, and to collect and restore tractors as a hobby. After amassing a collection of tractors that numbered 70, Sloan decided to sell all but two of them after a 35-year-old Allis-Chalmers tractor was stolen. After years of a self-confessed habit of drinking and smoking too much, he stopped both, although he claimed that it never affected him or his coaching.
In April 2016, Sloan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He died on May 22, 2020, at age 78, from complications of the diseases.
- Full Name: Gerald Eugene Sloan
- Date of Birth: March 28, 1942
- Birth Place: McLeansboro, Illinois
- Date of Death: May 22, 2020
- Aged: 78
- Death Place: Salt Lake City, Utah
- Nationality: American
- Listed height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
- Listed weight: 195 lb (88 kg)
- High school: McLeansboro (McLeansboro, Illinois)
- College: Evansville (1962–1965)
- NBA draft: since 1965 / Round: 1 / Pick: 4th overall
- Selected by the Baltimore Bullets
- Playing career: since 1965–1976
- Position: Shooting guard / Small forward
- Number: 14, 4
- Coaching career 1978–2011
- Spouse: Tammy Jessop (m. 2006), Bobbye Sloan (m since 1963–2004)
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