Life is a competitive pursuit.
Famed high school basketball coach Vern Sloan knew this as well as anyone, and his reputation as a fierce competitor is something those who knew him well were quick to mention when the word of his passing circulated last week.
Sloan, 76, spent 28 years in coaching before retiring in 2002. He is best known for his last job at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School. He is the school’s all-time leader among boys basketball coaches with 295 wins, and he led the Boilermakers to back-to-back Elite Eight state tournament appearances in 1992 and 1993.
Sloan first became a head coach at Kankakee Westview High School. In a nine-season run which ended in 1982, Sloan collected 147 wins and guided the Kayhawks to the Sweet 16 round of the state tournament in 1981.
A stint at Morris was sandwiched between the Westview and BBCHS jobs, and wherever Sloan went, his competitive nature was infused into the program.
“If you didn’t play hard, rebound and play good defense, you were going to take a seat on the bench,’’ said Denny Kirkman of Sloan’s philosophy. Kirkman was the athletic director at BBCHS when Sloan was hired.
Such an approach is not subtle, and Sloan was not always Mr. Popular among his players and those he competed against. But while he was not always liked, the respect others held for him was unwavering.
This will stand as his lasting testament. Through his competitive approach, Sloan taught others to compete, and so many of his pupils have gone on to realize great success. By preparing them for life, his own life will have meaning for years and decades to come.