Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Evansville's Jerry Sloan

February 16th, 2011
Earlier this season CHN writer Jon Teitel was able to spend a few minutes with Jerry Sloan, who in addition to being one of the greatest coaches in basketball history is one of the greatest to ever don an Evansville uniform. After four seasons at the Indiana school that included a pair of national titles at the Division II level Sloan played in the NBA, where he was half of the famed backcourt tandem that included Norm Van Lier. Sloan recently resigned as head coach of the Utah Jazz after 23-plus seasons with the franchise.

Jon Teitel: At Evansville you played for legendary coach Arad McCutchan, who still holds the Division II record with five national titles. What made him such a great coach, and what influence did he have on your own coaching career?

Jerry Sloan: He was kind of unique in that we had very short practices. Everything we did was very precise. He had a great knack for making guys better even though he did not have a coaching staff to rely on like coaches do now. Back then the head football coach was the assistant basketball coach, and vice-versa. He kept everyone involved at practice, whether you were the star or the last guy on the bench. He never cut anyone from the team.

JT: In 1965 you were named All-American for a team that went 29-0, and you set the Division II title game record for most rebounds with 25 in a three-point overtime win over Walt Frazier's SIU team en route to your second straight national championship and your second straight tournament MOP award. Was that the greatest year of your life, and did you think that Frazier was going to ruin your perfect season?

JS: We beat SIU three times that year: twice in the regular season by one point and a three-point OT win in the title game. Walt Frazier was a great player even back then. I remember that one of my high school teammates (David Lee) was on that SIU team.

JT: In 1964 you were drafted in the third round by Baltimore as an eligible junior, but after deciding to stay in college you were drafted in the first round by Baltimore in 1965 (one spot ahead of Billy Cunningham). Why did you decide to stick around for your senior year, and were you surprised that Baltimore picked you again in 1965?

JS: I cam back to school because I was concerned about getting my degree. If not I would have been a mess. I was not sure where I would end up going in the draft. Back then there was not as much scouting, so I never even worked out for any teams.

JT: In 1969 you scored a career-high 43 points (19-36 FG) in a win at Milwaukee. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone"?

JS: I am not sure. I never considered myself to be a shooter!

JT: In 1975 as a player for the Bulls you had a four-point loss to eventual champion Golden State in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on the road, and in 1996 as coach of the Jazz you had a four-point loss to Seattle in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals on the road. How devastating were these 2 losses, and how does the intensity of a Game 7 compare to any other playoff game?

JS: Every playoff game is important, whether it is Game 1 or Game 7. I feel that we were as good as we could be in each of those games. It is not as if I could have asked those teams to do anything more.

JT: You began this season with almost 1,200 career regular-season wins (#4 all-time), and recently passed Pat Riley for #3 on the all-time list. What is the key to your longevity, and how long do you plan on sticking around as coach?

JS: The key to my longevity is our ownership, who kept me involved even after we lost 56 games in 2005. I have no idea about the future. I am just a day-to-day person, so my last game might be today.

Sloan is also on Jon's list of best ABA/NBA players in Missouri Valley history.

Bradley: Chet Walker (1963) 1032 G, 18.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7-time All-Star
Creighton: Paul Silas (1965) 1254 G, 9.4 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 2-time All-Star
Drake: Willie Wise (1970) 552 G, 17.6 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG, 3-time All-Star (ABA/NBA)
Evansville: Jerry Sloan (1966) 755 G, 14 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 2-time All-Star
Illinois State: Doug Collins (1974) 415 G, 17.9 PPG, 3.3 APG, 1.2 SPG, 50.1 FG%, 83.3 FT%, 4-time All-Star
Indiana State: Larry Bird (1980) 897 G, 24.3 PPG, 10 RPG, 6.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 88.6 FT%, ROY, 3-time MVP, HOF
Missouri State: Curtis Perry (1971) 480 G, 9.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 1.2 SPG
Southern Illinois: Walt Frazier (1968) 825 G, 18.9 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.1 APG, 1.9 SPG, HOF
Wichita State: Warren Jabali (1969) 447 G, 17.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 5.3 APG, 2 SPG, 4-time All-Star, ROY (ABA)