SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz and the NBA world grieved together Friday morning after news of the death of Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan started to spread.
Sloan was one of the most respected men who had been an NBA player and coach, and most aren’t able to think of the Utah Jazz without thinking about Sloan.
Players and coaches, both active and retired, across the league took to social media throughout the day Friday to pay tribute to Sloan and share condolences.
Countless former players, who spent time playing for Sloan, wrote messages on Friday expressing their gratitude for being able to learn from one of the most respected and revered NBA coaches.
From Deron Williams, Mark Eaton, Thurl Bailey, John Crotty, Mo Williams, Earl Watson and Gordon Hayward to Mehmet Okur, Antoine Carr, Carlos Boozer, Kris Humphries, Paul Millsap, and many more, each shared their sadness at hearing the news of Sloan’s death and the love they still have for their former coach.
Many current Jazz players, including Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale posted on Twitter and Instagram with short messages of “Rest in peace” and “R.I.P.”
Though the current Jazz squad never played for Sloan, or had extensive relationships with him, Joe Ingles’ Twitter post summed up why it doesn’t matter that Sloan wasn’t their coach.
“RIP Coach’” Ingles said. “You don’t think of the Jazz without thinking of Coach Sloan.”
I didn't get to spend a lot of time playing for Coach Sloan, but coming in as a rookie he had a major impact on my transition to the @NBA. I'm grateful for that. Prayers to his family, friends and loved ones. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/DYJ4F4CvRw— Gordon Hayward (@gordonhayward) May 22, 2020
I loved everything about Jerry Sloan, from the way he played to the way he coached. He was a tenacious competitor who represented the Bulls of the 70s so well. Jerry became one of my favorite coaches when he was on the 1996 Dream Team staff and it was an honor to learn from him. pic.twitter.com/pEhbmiFbzp— Scottie Pippen (@ScottiePippen) May 22, 2020
Prayers are with Jerry Sloan’s family today. The game lost a legend 🙏🏾— Chris Paul (@CP3) May 22, 2020
The fact that current Jazz players paid tribute to Sloan, having not ever played for him, did not come as a surprise. As current head coach Quin Snyder said in a statement released by the Jazz, “Before coming to Utah, I was certainly aware of coach Sloan and what he meant to the NBA and to the coaching world. But, upon living in Utah, I became acutely aware of just how much he truly meant to the state.”
That understanding of Sloan’s legacy and and what he meant to the NBA extended well beyond the Jazz and the state of Utah. Players who never played for Sloan, only competed against his teams, or players who weren’t even in the NBA until after Sloan’s retirement voiced their appreciation on Friday for Sloan’s impact on the NBA.
There were even those who in their grief, expressed words of regret for the things they didn’t say or do while Sloan was still alive.
“This is the way I will always see you Coach, ready and willing for war, a competitor and leader, anything to win,” former Jazz player C.J. Miles said in an Instagram caption along with a picture of Sloan being held back by players and assistant coaches. “I wish I knew how to articulate how much your presence meant as a youngin’. I wish I’d had the chance as an adult to really sit with you ... we spoke but never enough after I REALLY found out how much you shaped me as a professional, as a man even.”
Tough day for me and everyone who loves a true competitor. I played for Jerry for 5 years. He was tough, fair, demanding but always had a soft spot for a hard worker like me. I will miss him much. RIP Coach!! Kick ass up there till I hopefully get up there to join you. #Sloan pic.twitter.com/cSDMNnKx5r— John Crotty (@JohnCrottyHEAT) May 22, 2020
Many who played for Sloan considered being under his tutelage a badge of honor and an accomplishment of its own. Hall of Fame player Alex English, who spent 16 years in the NBA from 1976 to 1992, said in a Twitter post on Friday that he regretted not having been able to play for Sloan, despite the chance that he had.
“I had an opportunity to play for the Utah Jazz under Jerry Sloan my last NBA season,” English said. “I opted to go play with the Dallas Mavericks. That was one of the biggest mistakes of my NBA career. I admired Sloan as a player and Coach.”
I had an opportunity to play for the Utah Jazz under Jerry Sloan my last NBA season. I opted to go play with the Dallas Mavericks. That was one of the biggest mistakes of my NBA career. I admired Sloan as a player and Coach.— Alex English (@AlexEnglish_2) May 22, 2020
Prayers to Coach’s family, Jazz Nation & everyone coach made feel like family! Not only did coach teach us accountability of being a good teammate but he taught us life through consistent effort! We love you & miss you! In your words before every game “hit first”! #foreverlegend— Earl J Watson (@Earl_Watson) May 22, 2020
My deepest condolences to the Sloan family and all of JazzNation. A great Coach and even better man. Rest In Peace Coach. 🙏🏾— jarron collins (@jarronctwin) May 22, 2020
Pat Riley statement on the passing of Jerry Sloan— Miami HEAT (@MiamiHEAT) May 22, 2020
“It was a privilege to play against a Jerry Sloan coached team, I always knew that we would be severely tested. His overall philosophy on both sides of the ball was fundamentally solid and always one step ahead of the game." pic.twitter.com/Xv42JvBmO4