SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz will be honoring Jerry Sloan with a banner-raising ceremony during Friday night’s game at their arena.
The NBA basketball team won’t be alone in officially celebrating the Hall of Fame coach’s career.
Friday has been declared “Jerry Sloan Day” in the Beehive State by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
This might be bad news for state legislators who were planning on having ice-pick fights in the parking lot of the Utah Capitol or jackpotting around that day. As he reminded reporters throughout his 23-year Jazz career, Sloan would have none of that.
Herbert’s declaration recognized “the enduring legacy of one of the greatest and most respected coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association.” It lauded Sloan for “invaluable contributions to elevating and advancing the visibility and status of professional sports, particularly basketball, not only in our state but throughout the nation.”
The governor also highlighted the fact that Sloan has the third-most wins in NBA coaching history (1,221 with Jazz and Bulls), that he made two Finals appearances, had 19 playoff appearances, tallied 16 consecutive winning seasons and won seven division titles.
Fittingly, Sloan will be joined by fellow Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, huge factors in the aforementioned success, at a press conference before Friday’s game against the Golden State Warriors.
"When I played here — before I came (and) after I left — when you thought about the Jazz, if you didn’t think about Jerry Sloan, John Stockton and Karl Malone, then it wasn’t the Jazz," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said.
"Even today when you go around the country and people hear the Utah Jazz, the three names that you hear are Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton. That’s just the impact that they’ve had on this franchise."
Corbin has spent parts of his interviews this week fielding questions about the man he replaced after Sloan’s midseason resignation three years ago.
The current Jazz coach said he can’t sum up Sloan’s contributions to the organization with which he won 1,223 games in the regular season and playoffs from 1988-2011. That number will be on the banner that will be raised to the EnergySolutions Arena rafters alongside the previously retired jerseys (and banners) of 10 other all-time Jazz greats, including Frank Layden (1), Adrian Dantley (4), Pete Maravich (7), Larry H. Miller (9), John Stockton (12), Jeff Hornacek (14), Karl Malone (32), Darrell Griffith (35), Mark Eaton (53) and Hot Rod Hundley (3,051).
Sloan’s ceremony will take place at halftime of the ESPN-televised 8:30 contest.
“It’s a lot of work, man. It’s a great accomplishment for him,” Corbin said when contemplating the number of wins Sloan had with Utah. “Coach is a tremendous guy to watch and understand and learn from. I’ve respected his work as a player, respected his work as one of his coaches on the staff.”
Corbin appreciated that the respect was mutual.
In fact, he had to encourage Sloan to speak up and give him advice and to not worry about stepping on his toes after stepping down. Corbin said his Hall of Fame predecessor “wanted to make sure that I didn’t feel any undue pressure” after taking over on Feb. 9, 2011.
“I loved having him around. I appreciate his friendship, his leadership throughout the process,” Corbin said. “Anytime you replace a legend like him, there’s going to be some comparisons, there’s going to be some talk about how he would’ve done it. Coach himself has been great, and I really appreciate him helping me through it.”
Sloan, hired this past offseason as a senior basketball adviser, is often seen at Jazz practices and games. Corbin said they talk often and that he appreciates the honest, non-sugar-coated input he receives from Sloan.
“I appreciate his loyalty to me and this franchise and this city and this state,” Corbin said. “But he enjoys the game and he enjoys being a part (of it). We should all welcome him around and want him to be a part of what this thing is because he helped build it.”
On Friday, the Jazz and the state of Utah will thank Sloan for doing just that.
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