On Friday, May 22, 2020, former Chicago Bull and Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan passed away from complications due to Parkinson’s Disease and Lewy Body Dementia. He left this earth peacefully at his Salt Lake City home, surrounded by his family.
Born Gerald Eugene Sloan on March 28, 1942, to Janie (Rogers) and Charles Ralph Sloan, he grew up in McLeansboro, Illinois, located in rural southern Illinois. He attended McLeansboro High School, where he met his high school sweetheart, Bobbye Irvin, who he married in April of 1963, and had three children, Kathy, Brian and Holly. The two remained married until her passing in 2004. He graduated from the University of Evansville where he was a member of the 1964 and 1965 NCAA Division II National Basketball Championship team. He was later drafted by The Baltimore Bullets of the National Basketball Association, where he played his rookie season, until he was drafted by the Chicago Bulls in the 1966 expansion draft and remained a member of the team until 1976.
In 1978 Jerry became an assistant coach for the Chicago Bulls, and became head coach in 1979 until 1982. After relocating to his hometown of McLeansboro, he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz in 1984, only to become head coach of the team in December of 1988. After holding one of the longest coaching tenures in professional sports and becoming a member of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, he retired from basketball in 2011.
Aside from his accomplishments in basketball, Jerry was also a well-known antique enthusiast. He developed a love for collecting anything from cash registers to John Deere tractors. When people say, ”One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” that man was Jerry. He loved spending his off season working on his farm and reconnecting each summer with the people of Hamilton County and southern Illinois. In 2005 he met Tammy Jessop and the two were married in 2006. As an avid walker, he took daily walks around Dolan’s Lake while in McLeansboro, and while in Salt Lake City, he walked many miles along the Jordan River with their beloved dog Max. Jerry was a generous man who never forgot where he came from and donated time and resources to many charitable organizations and individuals in need.
Known for his incredible intensity and work ethic, Jerry put 100% effort into everything he did. In return, countless others were inspired to do the same. He always believed that no matter who you were or where you came from, you could succeed in anything with a little “elbow grease” and determination. To him, a day working hard was a day hardly wasted. He played his game of basketball like he lived his life, and he lived his life like his favorite quote from Grantland Rice: “For when the one great scorer comes to write against your name, he writes not that you won or lost, but how you played your game.”
Jerry is survived by his wife Tammy, his children Kathy (Todd) Wood, Brian (Leslie) Sloan, Holly (Tim) Parrish, stepson Rhett Jessop, and sister Hattie Sloan. He also leaves behind seven grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews, who he loved dearly. He was preceded in death by his first wife Bobbye, brothers John, Dwight, Jimmy, Charles Ralph (Buck), Roger, and sisters June, Shirley, and Geneva.
A private celebration of his life will be determined at a later date. Donations can be made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation in Jerry Sloan’s name.