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NBA Coaching Great Jerry Sloan Retires Suddenly

Utah Jazz Jerry Sloan announces his resignation during an NBA news conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 10, 2011
Utah Jazz Jerry Sloan announces his resignation during an NBA news conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Feb 10, 2011

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Teresa Sullivan

The National Basketball Association's (NBA) longest tenured head coach, Jerry Sloan, 68, has abruptly resigned from the Utah Jazz - a team he led for the last 23 years.  He stepped down Thursday, only three days after signing a one-year contract extension.  The Hall of Fame coach retired after 26 seasons behind the bench as the NBA's third most successful head coach of all time.

Jerry Sloan had been a fixture for the Salt Lake City-based team.  There have been 245 coaching changes throughout the National Basketball Association since he became the head coach of the Utah Jazz in 1988.  Sloan made it 246 when he surprisingly announced his immediate retirement.

"My time is up, and it's time for me to move on," said Sloan.

Sloan's sudden resignation came one day after the Jazz lost for the 10th time in 14 games in a tough 91-86 decision to the Chicago Bulls.  His record with Utah this season was 31 wins and 23 losses.

Utah Jazz chief executive Greg Miller refuted media reports that Sloan was forced out of his job because of increasing tensions with some of his players, particularly star Deron Williams.  Miller said Sloan made the decision to leave.

"No players pushed him out, Kevin [O'Connor] didn't push him out, an aspiring head coach didn't push him out, and I certainly didn't push him out," said Miller.

Miller referred to Utah Jazz General Manager Kevin O'Connor, who said he tried and failed to persuade Sloan to stay.  O'Connor praised Sloan, saying he put the team ahead of himself.

"It was never about 'what kind of players,' or 'what are you going to do for us?'  It was always about what's good for the organization," said O'Connor.

Sloan's long-time top aide, assistant coach Phil Johnson also resigned.  Another assistant coach, Ty Corbin, was named the new head coach.

Sloan played in the NBA for 11 years before making the transition to coaching.  Before taking the head job with the Utah Jazz, the Illinois native coached the Chicago Bulls for three seasons ending in 1982.  He began his career with the Jazz the following year as a scout, and became an assistant coach in 1984.

Sloan, 68, retired with a career record of 1,221 victories against 803 losses.  Only fellow contemporary coaching greats, Don Nelson and Lenny Wilkens, have more wins.

The one major accolade missing from Sloan's illustrious career is an NBA championship.  He guided the Jazz to the finals two years in a row in 1997 and 1998, but both times he had the misfortune of facing the Chicago Bulls when the team was a virtually unstoppable juggernaut led by legendary superstar Michael Jordan.  The Bulls defeated the Jazz in the finals to capture their fifth and sixth league titles.

Sloan was emotional in announcing his retirement, but said only that he felt his energy level recently had dropped off a bit, and it was time for somebody else to take over.  He expressed his gratitude to the Utah Jazz and their fans.

"I've been fortunate to have terrific people to work with.  The fans and this organization have been second to none," said Sloan.

NBA Commissioner David Stern called Sloan one of the greatest and most respected coaches in NBA history.  

Jerry Sloan is the only coach in NBA history to reach 1,000 victories with one team, and only one of three coaches with a winning record for more than 15 consecutive seasons.  He was inducted into the Pro-Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

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