Jerry Sloan had a long list of accomplishments both as a player, and as a coach. As we say goodbye to one of the legends of the game, let us take time to acknowledge what he brought to the game of basketball.
Since most of us remember him as a Hall of Fame coach, we should shed some light on an illustrious playing career. He entered the league in 1965 as the fourth overall pick to the Baltimore Bullets.
The Bullets traded Sloan after his rookie season to the Chicago Bulls. In his first season in Chicago, he became an NBA All-Star and led the Bulls to their first-ever playoff appearance. It was Chicago’s first year in the NBA.
As a Bull, he was known as the “Original Bull” due to his defense. The Steal and Block weren’t recorded on the stat sheet until 1973; where he averaged 2.4 steals a game and maintained that average until he retired in 1976 due to a series of knee injuries. Another known attribute was his rebounding and at 6’5 the man could flat out rebound averaging 7.4 boards a game. Sloan was the definition of a complete basketball player. To sum up his playing career, he was a 2x All-Star, 6x all defense, and is in the Hall of Fame.
His coaching career is something that should be looked at in-depth. Sloan has a 63% winning percentage over his 26 years as a head coach, but he never won a title. His coaching goes way beyond his winning record. When you faced a Jerry Sloan coached team, you knew right off the bat you would be tested defensively. His attention to detail and player analysis is one of the main reasons why he was so successful as a coach. The ability to understand a player on and off the court is a trait that many coaches lack. Sloan is third all-time in NBA wins (1223), with him being one of five coaches to receive that honor and one of two coaches doing so with one franchise.
When he took over as head coach for the Jazz in 1988 everything changed for the franchise. Under Sloan the Jazz missed the playoffs three times in Sloan’s 23 years as coach. How was he so successful? The offense he implemented was designed to keep up containing the fast break which was made popular heading into the ’80s. The basic flex involves constant movement from all five offensive players, with down screens and cuts utilized in multiple areas of the floor. While the basic system itself is quite simple, the variations are nearly endless, part of what makes it such an effective system. (Salt City Hoops) The offense is designed to get looks at the rim off of a cut. This is why Stockton and Malone benefited from this system for years.
The teams he coached were disciplined and competitive and you made sure to pencil them in your schedule. Sloan is a kind of coach who produces high level basketball talent. Something you can’t say many coaches do in the league nowadays, except for Poppovich.
Today we say goodbye to a legend in the NBA world and a man whose offense is being run around the world and his philosophy and career will forever live on. RIP Jerry Sloan you will never be forgotten