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On This Date in Sports December 9, 1988: Jerry Sloan begins a 23-year run

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Frank Layden steps down as coach of the Utah Jazz to concentrate on his duties as team president and general manager. His assistant coach Jerry Sloan takes over. Sloan would hold the job for the next 23 years, setting a record for the longest tenure in NBA history. Jerry Sloan would win 1,223 games combined regular and postseason in Utah, leading the Jazz to two NBA Finals.

Frank Layden, the fun-loving coach for the Utah Jazz was born on January 5, 1932, in Brooklyn. Layden played college basketball at Niagara and later became coach at his Alma Matter, leading the team to the NCAA Tournament in 1970. In 1976, Frank Layden got his first NBA job as an assistant for Hubbie Brown with the Atlanta Hawks. In 1979, Layden became General Manager for the New Orleans Jazz, just before they made the move to Utah. Layden also became the coach in 1981, replacing Tom Nissalke. In 1985 just as the team’s fortunes began to turnaround, Jerry Sloan joined Layden’s coaching staff.

Jerry Sloan was born March 28, 1942, in McLeansboro, Illinois. After a standout career at Evansville, Sloan was drafted fourth in the 1965 draft by the Baltimore Bullets. He would spend just one season in Baltimore before being traded to the expansion Chicago Bulls. It was with the Bulls, that Sloan made his name as a hard-nosed defender who became an All-Star and a fan favorite, earning the nickname “The Original Bull”. Knee injuries would cut Jerry Sloan’s career short as he retired in 1976, with his #4 becoming the first retired number in franchise history.

Two years after retiring, Jerry Sloan became an assistant coach with the Bulls under Larry Costello. A year later he became the head coach of the Chicago Bulls. Sloan’s Bulls struggled, making the playoffs just once as he was fired in his third season. After his struggles with the Bulls, Jerry Sloan coached in the CBA, with the Evansville Thunder before joining Frank Layden’s staff in Utah in 1985.

Jerry Sloan joined the Utah Jazz just as Karl Malone was beginning his career. Together Malone and John Stockton would become the heart of the Jazz play together for 19 years. As the Jazz began the 1988/89 season, they were a team on the rise. Having made the playoffs five straight seasons, they gave the Los Angeles Lakers all they could handle taking them to seven games in the second round of the 1988 playoffs. The Lakers would go on to win a second straight NBA Championship as big things were expected in Utah for the future. Layden would stay on as GM for another decade.

The Jazz were off to a decent start in the 1988/89 season at 11-6, but Frank Layden felt a change was needed and decided to concentrate on his duties as General Manager and President, giving the coaching reigns to Jerry Sloan. The move worked out, as the Jazz had their first 50-win season to capture the Midwest Division Title. However, they would get swept by the Golden State Warriors in the first round. The Jazz would have much more success in future playoff runs under Jerry Sloan, as they made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 1992. In 1997, they made it to the NBA Finals, losing to the Bulls. A year later they were bested by Michael Jordan and the Bulls again.

Jerry Sloan remained with the Jazz through the end of the Stockton-Malone era, which saw Utah make the playoffs 20 straight years. After three seasons, Sloan got the Jazz back into the playoffs where they made it four straight years before he decided to retire in the middle of the 2010/11 season. The 23 years with one team is the longest tenure in NBA history for any head coach, equaled recently by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs. Voted to the Hall of Fame as a coach, Jerry Sloan compiled a record of 1,127-682 in the regular season and 96-100 in the playoffs.