I've been fortunate to have terrific people to work with. The fans and this organization have been second to none. —Former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan
PORTLAND, Ore. — Old retired jerseys and banners that have been in the EnergySolutions Arena rafters as visual reminders of memorable Utah Jazz moments and icons were recently replaced with redesigned versions.
Another legendary name will soon be added to the impressive collection.
Banners for John Stockton, Karl Malone, Adrian Dantley, Frank Layden, Jeff Hornacek, Darrell Griffith, Mark Eaton, Larry H. Miller, Hot Rod Hundley and Pete Maravich are getting a new neighbor.
They'll soon welcome Jerry Sloan to the arena’s honored air space.
Three years after Sloan stunned the basketball world with a midseason resignation in 2011, the team’s senior basketball adviser will be formally honored by the Jazz organization for his Hall of Fame coaching career in Utah.
Mark Jan. 31 on your calendars, Sloan fans.
The banner-raising ceremony will take place that night at ESA in an ESPN-televised game against the Golden State Warriors, multiple sources have confirmed to the Deseret News.
As one source put it, many fans believe the Jazz are “way overdue” in officially recognizing Sloan, who meant so much to the Utah community for decades.
The delay, however, has primarily been because the 71-year-old Sloan didn’t feel comfortable with being honored publicly.
Though he’s now offering his advising services to his coaching successor, Tyrone Corbin, Sloan has taken a low-key approach with the organization in the years since he resigned after saying he'd lost the energy for the job. He rarely speaks to media and stoically sits about 12 rows behind the team at home games.
Even when he rejoined the Jazz, Sloan was quick to point out that he wasn’t trying to reclaim his job or overshadow Corbin.
That, of course, is how Sloan functioned throughout his coaching career, usually deferring praise to players like Stockton, Malone and Hornacek or to Jazz brass like Frank Layden, the late Miller and his longtime coaching partner Phil Johnson. Even fans.
“I've been fortunate to have terrific people to work with,” Sloan said the day he stepped aside in Feburary 2011. “The fans and this organization have been second to none.”
Speaking on behalf of the organization — and the Utah community, really — Jazz owner Gail Miller offered Sloan some public praise during his farewell press conference.
“Today is the end of an amazing era,” Miller said. “Jerry, you've become an institution.”
Sloan was hired as the Jazz head coach on Dec. 8, 1988, taking over for Layden after he stepped down.
Over the next 22-plus years, Sloan took the Jazz to new heights.
Under Sloan’s guidance, the Jazz earned two NBA Finals appearances, made it to the playoffs 19 times, won seven division titles, and racked up 13 seasons with 50-plus victories.
Sloan, who compiled a record of 1,096-659 as the Jazz’s bench boss, was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 11, 2009.
"I haven't accepted too many checks outside of basketball since I was a kid," Sloan said during his Hall of Fame festivities. "Not many people get to do something they love to do and then get paid for it.
"I just feel like I've been lucky to be a part of basketball for as long as I have."
Leading up to his enshrinement, Sloan admitted he regretted his championship shortcomings to the point he almost feels unworthy of Hall of Fame recognition. Over the years, he’s lost a lot of sleep reliving painful losses more than reminiscing about wins.
He also felt somewhat guilty for getting accolades while riding the coattails of Stockton and Malone.
"I don't want to step in John and Karl's way. They're the ones that did all the work," Sloan said. "I certainly don't want to take anything away from them by me tagging along. I've tagged along for a long time."
Sloan, whose No. 4 Bulls jersey was retired by Chicago years ago from his playing days, began his career in Utah as a team scout from 1983-84. He was hired by Layden as an assistant coach on Nov. 19, 1984, before taking over the lead job in 1988.
Three decades later, Jazz fans will have a banner to look at to remind them of the good old days.
Stockton recently talked about his longtime coach while in Utah on his book tour.
"You can’t put into words his impact on my life and career — coach, friend, mentor, boss," Stockton said of Sloan. "He's really worn a lot of hats for me personally. I admire him so much I can’t even express it."
The Jazz are putting the banner up to express their thanks to Sloan.