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Longtime Jazz coach Jerry Sloan ‘is dying,’ will no longer be able to attend games

Jerry Sloan, Jazz

Longtime Utah Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan doesn’t have much time left. The once intense, perfection-demanding, iron-willed man at the helm of some of the best teams in franchise history is battling a long fight, one that extends beyond a grueling regular season or a seven-game playoff series.

The 77-year-old Sloan is on the ropes against Parkinson’s Disease and a severe brand of dementia — two enemies that have severely limited his routine, as it has for many others at his age.

Some asked how he’s doing, the answers are never great. Yet there is the occasional one that hits harder than a Karl Malone high screen, as Gordon Monson of The Salt Lake Tribune found out.

“He is dying,” said a person outside Sloan’s family.

The reality sets in — death gets to us all, even the ones deemed as iron men. Sloan was one of them, a tough-as-nails shooting guard as an NBA player for all his 11 seasons, a trait he carried into his coaching career.

Sloan turned around his 10-year career with the Chicago Bulls to join the coaching staff as an assistant two years later, only to take the helm a year into the job. After three years with Chicago, Sloan slid into an assistant position with the Jazz, soon getting his shot in 1988 after three years on the coaching staff.

The rest is history.

Sloan coached the Jazz for 23 years, with the Coach of the Year award somehow eluding him, despite being the longest-tenured helmsman in the league for a long time before Popovich became so after Sloan resigned his post in February 2011.

The coach has a consummate loyalty to the Jazz franchise and was a regular attending games, but as Monson noted, he will no longer be able to do that in his current condition.

“Every day is different for him, some better than others, most not so good,” wrote Monson. “It’s basically a slide into oblivion. He’s frail. He’s physically and mentally limited. Around the clock care is required for him. Although, in the more recent past the old coach has been able to attend Jazz games, he will go no more.”

Sloan’s time will come, it’s only a matter of when with his debilitating state of health. But for now, it’s important to appreciate his legacy, his body of work, and the contributions he’s made to the NBA over his many years of service as a player and as one of the most iconic and revered coaches in league history.