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Former Utah Jazz Forward Thurl Bailey Says His Former Coach Jerry Sloan ‘Was The Real Deal’

Thurl Bailey and Jerry Sloan of the Utah Jazz (Photos by: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Utah Jazz forward, current Jazz broadcaster, and host of the Thurl Talk Podcast, Thurl Bailey said that his former NBA head coach Jerry Sloan “was the real deal.”

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

During a recent episode of the Thurl Talk Podcast, Bailey reflected on the life and legacy of his former coach.

“You would get the same Jerry Sloan at a black-tie dinner… that you would get if you sat behind the bench on one of the games he coached,” said the former Jazzman. “He may not have been as colorful as he would have been during the game but he was the real deal. He was the real deal.”

Bailey continued by saying that Sloan was the person and coach that he was because of how he grew up.

In the midst of World War II, Sloan was born on March 28, 1942, in Gobbler’s Knob, Illinois. He was the youngest of 10 children raised by a single mother after his father died when he was only four years old.

Sloan grew up on a farm that required him to completed chores early in the morning before walking a couple of miles into basketball practice.

“Jerry was business when it came to basketball. There was a switch that flipped when it was time for practice or it was time for a game or it was time for him to prepare us for that game, he was totally 100 percent in on getting the job done and I think a lot of that stemmed from how he grew up,” Bailey said. “Jerry was the kind of guy who you knew grew up in a difficult era where you had to work for things. You had to walk miles to get to school or to get to basketball practice.”

Bailey said that one of the things that made Sloan “real” and something that the public may not have been able to see very well was the Jazz legend’s sense of humor.

“If I had to say one thing that the public may not have had an opportunity to know about Jerry or to see him in action in that way was he was the fact that he was just such a funny individual away from basketball,” Bailey said. “He was just like one of the guys, right? He was just a good guy. He had some, you know what they would call now as dad jokes. He would just have this almost country way of naturally expressing himself that was really, really funny and humorous. And it wasn’t like he told jokes all day. It was the way in which he would tell a story.”

Bailey appreciated the opportunity to play with Sloan as his head coach from 1988-91 and again in 1999.

“As much time as I spent, along with other guys like John Stockton, Karl Malone, everybody who came through and was coached by Jerry and was around him in that particular family — I’m not sure that there’s a lot of groundbreaking stuff that most people didn’t know about him. Again, he was the real deal,” Bailey said. “You didn’t get a different Jerry Sloan if he was sitting down to dinner with you and you weren’t on the team than you got in the locker room.”

Former Utah Jazz and NBA player Thurl Bailey is the host of the Thurl Talk Podcast. After more than a decade playing in the NBA as Big T for the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, Thurl has seen a thing or two. And he still has things he wants to learn. He’s a musician, father, husband, and friend and he’s interested in talking with people. That’s what he’ll do each week on Thurl Talk: share his own life experiences and learn from the stories of others. Whether it’s about his life on the court, behind a mic or sitting at the kitchen counter, count on getting to know the real Thurl Bailey and maybe learn a little something from his friends.

Subscribe to the Thurl Talk Podcast here