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Mark Eaton Wants Jerry Sloan To Be Remembered As ‘A Great Friend’

Former Jazz player Mark Eaton and coach Jerry Sloan talk prior to a Jazz game in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018. Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Legendary Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan passed away early Friday morning at the age of 78. Former Utah Jazz center Mark Eaton described his former coach as a “great friend.”

During an interview on KSL Newsradio, Eaton explained how Sloan perfectly toed the line between being a friend, a coach and a mentor.

Sloan passed away after a battle with Lewy Body Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.

Mark Eaton’s Reaction To The Passing Of Jerry Sloan

“I’m sad on the one hand and on the other side … I am grateful that he has moved on and is free of the terrible disease,” said Eaton.

Sloan had been battling the disease since April of 2016.

“I miss him greatly. He had a huge impact on my life and on the lives of everyone here in the valley and the state of Utah,” Eaton reflected.

The Impact Of Jerry Sloan

Sloan was the longest-tenured head coach in American major league sports with the same franchise when he resigned as the head coach of the Jazz on February 10, 2011.

He worked as an assistant coach for Frank Layden from 1984 to 1988.

On December 12, 1988, Frank Layden abruptly resigned, and Jerry Sloan became the head coach of the Utah Jazz. It was the beginning of a Hall of Fame career.

“I think what everyone really appreciated about Jerry was his commitment to doing it the right way,” Eaton recalled, “His integrity, the fact that you could count on him every single day to be the same guy.”

Eaton’s career with the Utah Jazz began in 1982, when Sloan was an assistant and ended in 1993. Eaton was an NBA All-Star in 1989 and won two Defensive Player Of The Year awards.

“In a crazy world of pro sports, he was a solid anchor, this guy from the Heartland of America,” Eaton remembered, “Just brought that down-home philosophy with his John Deere hat … That’s what endeared him to everybody.”