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Fellow NBA Head Coaches Paid Tribute To Old Rival, Utah Jazz Legend Jerry Sloan

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan shake hands after the Utah Jazz are defeated by the San Antonio Spurs in game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Finals in San Antonio, Texas, May 30, 2007. (Photo by Tom Smart / Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Current and former NBA head coaches remembered and honored legendary Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan.

The former Jazz head coach passed away at the age of 78 on Friday, May 22. Sloan had been dealing with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia since April 2016.

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

Sloan was the first NBA head coach to win 1,000 games with one franchise.

After learning of Sloan’s passing, these former head coaches and old rivals remembered and honored the Jazz legend.

Don Nelson

Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks

“Oh, he was a dear friend,” former NBA head coach Don Nelson told ESPN. “I think Jerry may have been the most competitive guy I ever coached against. But when the game was over, it was over. I remember talking to him when he was getting ready to retire. He was looking forward to going back to his farm. He loved driving the fields on his tractor.”

Lenny Wilkens

Seattle SuperSonics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks

“I liked his competitive spirit. His teams were always so prepared, and he wasn’t going to let you do what you wanted to do. We both believed defense could influence a game.” former NBA head coach Lenny Wilkens told ESPN. “He wasn’t the kind of guy to sit and cry about what he did and didn’t do. He loved the game. That was enough and there’s no question the game loved him back.”

Phil Jackson

Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers

“Jerry was a farmer at heart,” former NBA head coach Phil Jackson told ESPN in a text message. “We all enjoyed his fire and his sportsmanship… both ends of the coaching spectrum.”

George Karl

Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets

“I’d put Jerry as one of the top three or four all-time I’ve ever faced. His teams were really difficult to play against. They were very tough-minded, very team-oriented. Jerry would not tolerate a lot of the NBA bulls— that goes on. He was demanding, but respectful. Every Utah Jazz player I ever spoke to had nothing but great things to say about him,” former NBA head coach George Karl told ESPN. “I loved the battles with Jerry. They were physical, but [the Jazz] played as a team and understood that you had to stick together in competition. Jerry demanded that. He demanded that his players be good teammates.”

“His teams played hard. They played together and they were a very smart basketball team,” Karl told SportsBeat’s Sam Farnsworth. “Smart is so much no talked about by NBA fans and media but having an intelligent basketball team is just a forte of a Jerry Sloan basketball team.”

Pat Riley

Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Miami HEAT

It was a privilege to play against a Jerry Sloan coached team, I always knew that we would be severely tested,” Miami HEAT executive and former NBA head coach Pat Riley said in a statement released by the Miami HEAT. “His overall philosophy on both sides of the ball was fundamentally solid and always one step ahead of the game.”

Rick Carlisle

Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Dallas Mavericks

“We are greatly saddened by the passing of Jerry Sloan,” Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle said in a statement released by the Mavs. “The coaching profession has lost a great innovator, fearless competitor and trusted friend. Jerry was not only an all-time great coach, he quietly helped me and many other young assistants achieve their dreams of becoming NBA head coaches. Our hearts go out to the Sloan family and Utah Jazz as we mourn one of the all-time greats.”

Gregg Popovich

San Antonio Spurs

“It’s a sad day for all of us who knew Jerry Sloan. Not only on the basketball court but, more importantly, as a human being,” Gregg Popovich said in a statement released by the San Antonio Spurs. “He was genuine and true. And that is rare. He was a mentor for me from afar until I got to know him. A man who suffered no fools. He possessed a humor, often disguised, and had a heart as big as the prairie.”

For more on the life and legacy of former Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan visit the kslsports.com/jerrysloan.