Illinois town mourns loss of Jerry Sloan

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MCLEANSBORO, Ill. (WEHT) — Hall of Fame player and coach Jerry Sloan died Friday after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease and dementia.

He meant so many things to thousands of fans who packed sold out games at Roberts Stadium during those championship seasons at Evansville College, which later became UE. But Sloan was just getting started, heading to a historic NBA career.

It all started in his hometown of McLeansboro, Illinois.

“I always felt that I was close to Jerry and he was close to me and my family and the rest of the people in the community because we’ve got a thing around here in this community. Once a Fox, always a Fox,” Mayor Dick Deitz said.

Even after achieving success, Sloan was always a Fox – playing basketball at McLeansboro High School. Jerry Sloan was an Illinois all state player at McLeansboro before beginning his collegiate career in Evansville.

“With all the success, Jerry had he never forgot where he came from. He always kept McLeansboro in the spotlight,” Deitz said.

“Growing up, he’s had so many things named after him. You see him on TV and the fierce competitor he is, but then you see him out anywhere at an auction or a restaurant and and he would take time just to talk to anybody,” Clint Winemiller, Hamilton County High School Athletic Director, said.

Sloan was a star at Evansville, leading the Purple Aces to two national titles in the 1960s. He found even more success as a head coach, compiling the fourth most wins all time while leading the Utah Jazz. Deitz says that whenever he saw him at Utah, he felt McLeansboro was still with him.

“No question about it, when I would watch Jerry on TV when he was coaching Utah, whenever he took the floor, always felt that the community of McLeansboro took the floor with him,” Deitz said.

Sloan returned to live out the rest of his life in McLeansboro.

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(This story was originally published on May 24, 2020)

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