SALT LAKE CITY -- Jerry Sloan plans to miss a few games as
his wife battles cancer for the second time but will continue to
coach the team he has led for 16 years.
Bobbye Sloan, the coach's wife of more than 40 years, has a
malignant tumor in her pancreas, unrelated to the breast cancer she
was treated for several years ago.
"I won't get up here any more and cry, and I'm just going to
fight it as much as I can, and he's going to go on with his job ...
whether he wants to or not," Bobbye Sloan said Thursday.
Jerry Sloan, who took over the Jazz from Frank Layden in 1988,
has the longest tenure of any coach or manager in the four major
professional team sports.
He can also certainly be one of the more gruff characters in
sports, although it did not show Thursday as he held his wife's
hand and they both fought off tears during a short news conference
before the Jazz practiced.
Sloan said he also considered leaving the team for his wife, but
she quickly vetoed the idea.
"The only reason why I don't is because of her," he said.
Sloan will miss Utah's game at Denver on Friday, the same day
the couple is scheduled to discuss treatment options with a cancer
specialist. Whether he's back on the Jazz bench for Saturday's home
game against Atlanta was uncertain, although Bobbye Sloan said he
will be back.
"I told him he can't take the fun of those games away from
me," she said. "I've enjoyed this team so much this year. I've
said I have to have something good and positive to look forward to.
And those games are."
The couple grew up together in southern Illinois and has three
children and seven grandchildren.
Bobbye Sloan, 60, was diagnosed with breast cancer after the
Jazz's 1997 NBA finals loss to the Chicago Bulls. She fought and
won a very public battle with the disease, but had been ill for the
past few weeks with flu-like symptoms. Jerry Sloan missed Monday's
game against Dallas to be with his wife.
A biopsy confirmed that she had the cancerous tumor in her
Team doctor Russell Shields said it was not a recurrence of her
first battle with cancer.
Assistant Phil Johnson, who took over for Sloan on Monday and
has several times in the past -- although usually when Sloan's fiery
temper has gotten him in trouble with the league -- will coach the
games Sloan misses.
Sloan told the team at practice Tuesday that his wife was ill,
although they didn't know how bad it was.
Center Greg Ostertag, who has been with the Jazz the longest,
said he first heard it was cancer Thursday morning.
"It's a sad thing that something like that would happen. I've
gotten to know her, and I think she's the median between me and
Jerry sometimes," said Ostertag, who's often in Sloan's doghouse.
"She's a great lady, and it's sad to hear."
Jazz owner Larry Miller said Sloan has the latitude to do what
he needs to take care of his family.
"He needs to attend to Bobbye and the family and himself
first," Miller said.
Hired in 1988 by the Jazz, Sloan has the sixth-best winning
percentage in NBA history (62.7 percent).
Bobbye Sloan defeated breast cancer in the 1990s and is a
beloved figure in the community. The couple didn't hide the battle
from the public, which endeared them to fans.