SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Tom Nissalke, the very first head coach of the Utah Jazz, died Friday at the age of 87.
Nissalke was the team’s first coach when the franchise moved from New Orleans to Utah in 1979, coaching the team for just over two seasons. Nissalke was fired 20 games into the 1981-82 season, and replaced by Frank Layden.
Nissalke compiled an overall record with the Jazz of 60-124.
Nissalke was a much more successful coach before his tenure with the Jazz, winning the NBA Coach of the Year award in 1977 with the Houston Rockets. He was also named the ABA Coach of the Year in 1972 with the Dallas Chaparrels.
Nissalke ended his NBA coaching career with Cleveland after coaching the Cavaliers from 1982 to 1984. He retired from coaching in 1985.
Nissalke also coached the Utah Stars of the ABA in its final two seasons.
Having coached 879 games in the NBA and ABA, Nissalke compiled a career record of 371-508.
Nissalke also coached Puerto Rico in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
The Jazz released the following statement on the passing Tom Nissalke:
“Gail Miller and the Miller Family, along with the Jazz organization, are saddened to hear about the passing of former head coach Tom Nissalke. As our first head coach when the team moved in 1979 from New Orleans to Salt Lake City, he was instrumental in helping the franchise transition to its new home. We express our appreciation for all he did as the Jazz coach and for introducing the NBA to our community. Our thoughts are with Coach Nissalke’s daughter, son, grandchildren and friends during this time.