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Jerry Sloan remembered as ‘The Original Bull’

Sloan made his mark with the Bulls, becoming the first player in their history to have his number retired, before going on to a Hall of Fame coaching career with the Jazz.

“Jerry Sloan was ‘The Original Bull’ whose tenacious defense and nightly hustle on the court represented the franchise and epitomized the city of Chicago,’’ Bulls board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.
“Jerry Sloan was ‘The Original Bull’ whose tenacious defense and nightly hustle on the court represented the franchise and epitomized the city of Chicago,’’ Bulls board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said.
Dave Pickoff/AP

Before there was Jerry Sloan, the Hall of Fame coach of the Jazz, there was Jerry Sloan, the hard-nosed guard of the Bulls.

The retired No. 4 hanging in the rafters of the United Center always has been a reminder of that.

The Jazz announced Friday that Sloan died from complications of Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

‘‘Jerry Sloan was ‘The Original Bull’ whose tenacious defense and nightly hustle on the court represented the franchise and epitomized the city of Chicago,’’ Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. ‘‘Jerry was the face of the Bulls organization from its inception through the mid-1970s, and, very appropriately, his uniform No. 4 was the first jersey retired by the team. A great player and a Hall of Fame NBA coach, most importantly, Jerry was a great person. Our sympathies go out to the Sloan family and all his many fans.’’

Sloan, who wore that ‘‘Original Bull’’ title proudly, quickly became a fan favorite after the Bulls nabbed him from the Bullets in the 1966 expansion draft. Thanks to players such as Sloan, Bob Love, Norm Van Lier and Nate Thurmond, the Bulls made the playoffs in seven of their first eight seasons but never reached the NBA Finals, losing in the Western Conference finals twice.

Sloan averaged 14 points in his 11-year career, including a career-best 18.3 during the 1970-71 season. He was a two-time All-Star and was named to the All-Defensive first team four times.

He started his coaching career as an assistant with the Bulls in the 1977-78 season, then served as their coach for three seasons (1979-80 to 1981-82).

After parting ways with the Bulls, he found his way to Utah, where he helped turn the Jazz into a perennial contender. They missed the playoffs only three times in the 22-plus seasons he coached them and reached back-to-back NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, only to lose to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.

Sloan, who was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, resigned as the Jazz’s coach two-thirds of the way through the 2010-11 season. He coached 2,024 games and earned 1,221 victories.