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UE legend Jerry Sloan Stepping Down As Coach Of The Utah Jazz

Jerry Sloan
Stephen Dunn, Getty Images

University of Evansville basketball legend and McLeansboro, Ill. native Jerry Sloan, who has coached the Utah Jazz since 1988, is stepping down effective immediately, according to reports from Fox Sports, the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.

Sloan’s exit comes just days after he signed a one-year agreement to remain as head coach of the Jazz through the 2011-12 season, and follows what has been described as a heated meeting between Sloan, general manager Kevin O’Connor and owner Greg Miller following the team’s 91-86 loss last night to the Chicago Bulls.

Also parting ways with the team is longtime Sloan assistant Phil Johnson.

During his more than two decades at the helm, Sloan, 68, led the Jazz to 16 consecutive NBA playoff appearances, as well as the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998.  His exit comes as the team has struggled this season, losing 10 of its last 14 games.  Sloan has also had a strained relationship with the team’s point guard, Deron Williams, as well as team management.

Named to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, Sloan is the third-winningest coach in NBA history, behind only Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens.

Well-known in the Tri-State for his prowess on the court, Sloan played at UE (then known as Evansville College) under the legendary Arad McCutchan, leading the Purple Aces in scoring in each of the three years he played as a starter.

Sloan was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets in 1964, but decided to stay and finish college.  He was again selected by the team in 1965, but played in Baltimore only one year before joining the Chicago Bulls, where his tenacity (and the fact that he was the first player Chicago chose in the expansion draft) earned him the nickname “The Original Bull.”  He remained with the team until retiring in 1976.

When Arad McCutchan retired from coaching at Evansville in 1977, he recommended Sloan for the head coach’s job; Sloan took it, but left after just five days, without coaching a single game.  Later that season, the entire Purple Aces team and coaching staff was killed in the Dec. 13, 1977 crash of a chartered DC-3 near Evansville Regional Airport.

Sloan rejoined the Bulls as a scout and later as an assistant coach before being named the Bulls’ head coach in 1979.  He served in that role for less than three seasons before being fired.

His first stint with the Jazz in the early ’80s – as a scout – came after his firing at Chicago, although it didn’t last long.  In 1984, he coached the Evansville Thunder (of the Continental Basketball Association) for one season, then returned to Utah as an assistant coach, rising to the head coach’s spot in December 1988.

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