Jerry Sloan, who entered the National Basketball Association as an unlikely prospect for a Hall of Fame career but carved out one nevertheless, as an All-Star guard with the Chicago Bulls and one of the winningest coaches in league history, died on Friday at his home in Salt Lake City. He was 78.
The Utah Jazz, a team he coached for 23 seasons, said the cause was Lewy body dementia and Parkinson’s disease. Both illnesses were diagnosed in 2015, as the team had announced at the time.
Sloan had a low profile when he arrived in the N.B.A. in 1965. He had played for a small-college N.C.A.A. school, and, though he was tenacious on defense, he wasn’t a brilliant scorer.
But he became a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame after forging an N.B.A. career spanning a half-century. He became the fourth-winningest head coach in N.B.A. history and No. 2, behind Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, for longest tenure with one team.
Only Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkens and Popovich have compiled more regular-season N.B.A. coaching victories than Sloan, whose teams won 1,221 games and lost 803 in his 26 seasons, three with the Bulls before he became head coach of the Jazz.
Sloan coached the Jazz to 15 consecutive playoff appearances, from 1989 to 2003, with teams featuring Karl Malone at power forward and John Stockton at point guard in his pick-and-roll offense. His Utah teams reached the N.B.A. finals in 1997 and 1998 but were beaten both times by Michael Jordan’s Bulls.