SALT LAKE CITY -- The governor's sixth annual State of Sport Awards ceremony was held this past week, and the top honor went to Jerry Sloan.
Last Thursday, Vivint Smart Home Arena hosted an event where athletes from different sports came together to honor each other, and be honored by Gov. Gary Herbert.
“Our slogan: 'Utah the State of Sport' is more than just a slogan, it’s a lifestyle, and we see that on exhibition here tonight with all these great athletes, coaches, teams that we're gonna honor,” Herbert said.
There were high school coaches and college athletes, but the lifetime achievement award went to Jerry Sloan, who coached the Utah Jazz for 23 seasons.
“Well, he's an icon here in Utah and really, beyond the borders of Utah,” Herbert said. “Not only was he a great coach, people forget he was a great NBA basketball player in his own right. All-defensive Player of the Year.”
Former NBA players were in the audience and on the big screen.
“They broke the mold when they made you, I tell you that, so very proud of you,” John Stockton said. “It’s well-deserved, and congrats.”
When Sloan took the stage, he didn't say much about the two times he took the Utah jazz all the way to the NBA finals in 1997 and 1998.
But he did go back in time.
“I played on the same team with three girls,” he said. “I was in grade school. Our coach couldn't figure out who was gonna be the skins and who was gonna be the shirts.”
He didn't talk about his seven division titles or the streak of 16 winning seasons, but instead of the rocky start before all that.
“This community really supported us when we weren't as good,” Sloan said. “We lost 56 games and still kept our jobs.”
Sloan is one of only nine coaches in the NBA to have surpassed 1,000 regular season victories, and he is one of only two coaches to have won 1,000 games with the same franchise.
But for a moment he spoke of two losses.
“I lost my dad when I was four, and then I lost my wife,” Sloan said.
Sloan, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, said he's had a blessed life, and during an evening that focused so much on his past, he ended with a nod to the Jazz's future.
“It'll be interesting to see how they're gonna play in the playoffs, I think they're gonna do well,” he said. “It’s a long journey for 82 games, eight exhibition games and then go into the playoffs. Too late to come up with more excuses. You gotta get out there and show you can play or compete.”