Deseret News - How Jerry Sloan helped save one woman’s life

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    [​IMG] Utah head coach Jerry Sloan talks with the media after practice for Game 2 on Sunday at the Toyota Center in Houston on April 22, 2007. | Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
    A story written in the Chicago Tribune by Melissa Isaacson during the 1997 NBA Finals between the Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls illustrates the kind of person the late Jerry Sloan was.

    In the article, Isaacson relays the story of a 15-year-old girl who attended a girls basketball camp run by Sloan in Chicago. Her mother didn’t have enough money for the camp, but Sloan took an understanding approach, admitting her to the camp for free and even driving her home afterward because her mom wasn’t off work by the time the camp ended.

    Sloan’s lessons about basketball and life had an impact on the girl, and Sloan kept in contact with her even after the basketball camp, even giving her tickets to Bulls games. Before attending the camp, she had been cut from the high school freshman basketball team, but after Jerry’s wisdom and some hard work, she became the leading scorer and led her high school team to the state championship. The woman, unnamed in the story, went on to play basketball on a scholarship at a major college.

    Then, her life changed after graduating.

    After college, she worked a series of unfulfilling jobs and eventually struggled with alcoholism. She was in an abusive relationship with a man, living in a motel, who shot a gun at her and their baby. He eventually committed suicide, and the woman’s struggle with alcoholism continued. She was suicidal.

    Seeing her daughter at her lowest, the woman’s mom wrote a letter to Sloan, who at that time was the coach of the Utah Jazz.

    He (Sloan) responded immediately with a long letter, a bookmark that said “You are a gift from God” and a phone call.

    “I was so nervous and embarrassed talking to him that I kept drinking during our conversation,” she says.

    He urged her to come live with his family in Utah, where he would place her in treatment. “I care about you,” he told her.

    She asked him to say hello to her on TV, but Sloan didn’t know if he would be interviewed, so instead, he wore a tie that was the color that she requested — blue and burgundy.

    Following the conversation, she tried quitting drinking by herself, valiantly trying, but had seizures and intense vomiting spells. Finally, she followed Jerry’s advice and went to a treatment facility, where she was able to get clean. At the time of the article, 1997, she had been four years sober.

    “I think about Jerry all the time,” she says. “The way I look at life, the way I raise my little boy, the way I go on job interviews, I got from him.

    “My philosophy in life was always negative, always cynical. But he always taught me that if you work hard enough and want something badly enough, it can happen. He gave me self-esteem. He gave me hope.”

    Full Story from the Deseret News...

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