BOURBONNAIS — Vernon J. “Vern” Sloan, the winningest boys basketball coach in Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School history, died at his home in Bourbonnais on Wednesday.
The 76-year-old Sloan coached the Boilermakers from 1984-2002 when he retired with a record of 295-191. He took the team to back-to-back IHSA Class AA Elite Eight state tournament appearances in 1992 and 1993. Both teams posted 28-3 records. He was inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Sloan had been battling ill health.
“Vern had three loves. The love of his life, his wife Cindy, basketball and their home in Wisconsin,” said Denny Kirkman, who was the school’s athletic director when Sloan was hired in 1984.
Sloan came to Bradley after two seasons at Morris Community High School, where he was 28-20. He replaced Roger Bohnenstiehl.
Prior to that, Sloan was the head coach at Kankakee Westview High School from 1974-82. He took the Kayhawks to the Class AA Sweet Sixteen in 1981 as they finished with a 25-5 record.
In 28 years as a head coach, Sloan posted a record of 470-279, good for a .628 winning percentage.
When he retired in April 2002, Sloan was replaced by one of his former players, Mark Kohl. Kohl and his twin brother, Mike, were members of the two Elite Eight teams.
“Coach Sloan’s passing brings great sadness to me and many BBCHS basketball alumni family,’’ Mark Kohl said. “Coach Sloan was a mastermind of preparing his teams for success as he always knew how to prepare us for our next opponent.
“Each player on the team always knew their role on the team. His quote of ‘know your role and do your job’ still rings true today in my role as a principal as I lead a building. I was honored to have played for him.”
Mark Kohl is the principal at Bradley Central Middle School.
Kohl and Kirkman both recalled Sloan’s trademark foot stomp at big moments in games. It was quick to get the attention of the players on the court, no matter how loud the crowd yelled.
“If you didn’t play hard, rebound and play good defense, you were going to take a seat on the bench,” Kirkman said about the stomp.
Kirkman said Sloan was not big on timeouts and halftime talks.
“He was a good bench coach,” Kirkman said. “Vern said there are 32 minutes in a game, four quarters. There is not enough time to do much. Preparation during practice, that was when he did his work.”
Jerry Krieg remembered taking his Bishop McNamara Catholic High School teams up against the Boilers and Sloan, especially in the 1980s.
“We both had good teams. His teams were hard to beat. They were well prepared. Their defense was stifling,” Krieg said.
Mike Kohl said Sloan was “one of the best coaches I have ever had.” He is the current football coach and assistant athletic director for the Boilermakers.
“I am very proud to say I played for coach Sloan in some of the great basketball memories. I will never forget him running off the court full speed after Matt Burlend’s game winning shot (to win the 1992 sectional championship).”
Among the members of the 1992 Elite Eight team was Chris Gandy, who went on to play for the University of Illinois.
Current Boiler coach Alex Renchen coached against Sloan when he was at Kankakee.
“We were playing Lincoln-Way in 2000 for a regional championship, and I talked to him — they’d played them and run a matchup (zone) and he was real helpful. When I took the Bradley job, I talked to him and he treated me really well,” Renchen said.
“When you think of area coaches, aside from (the late) coach (Ralph) Hodge, coach (Denny) Lehnus, with the high school guys, you think of coach Sloan and (Herscher) coach (Ron) Oloffson. (coach Sloan) was very good at what he did. They see you out competing with them, but these are guys I was also able to talk to. People never see that, they just see you battling on Friday night.”
Former BBCHS administrator Dennis Bossinger said: “Vern was a great coach and good teacher. A very responsible person. He was a friend of mine as well as an employee.”
Away from the court, Sloan was a private person.
One person who got to know him is retired Bishop McNamara Catholic High School teacher and coach Jim Frogge.
“We became friends as we both enjoyed the good food and fellowship at the old Homestead Restaurant,” Frogge said. “We seldom talked X’s and O’s but spent an enormous amount of time discussing/arguing philosophy, education and kids. I learned a great deal from Vern that helped shape my teaching and coaching. He cared about more than sport and was a great competitor as well as a friend.”
Clancy-Gernon Funeral Homes in Bourbonnais was in charge of arrangements. There will be no public services held. Sloan’s obituary can be found on page A 11.