The Philadelphia 76ers will be without one of their own when they take the court against the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Assistant coach Dave Joerger, a fixture on the NBA scene since 2006, has left the team to undergo radiation treatment and chemotherapy for cancer.
Joerger informed Sixers players, assistants and staff members that he had been diagnosed with a form of “head and neck” cancer at a meeting after Philly’s 118-113 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Saturday. He has been undergoing treatment for the last two weeks.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report on Joerger’s health situation. In a podcast recorded with Woj on Wednesday, the 47-year-old offered a positive outlook on his prognosis.
“We have caught it early,” Joerger said. “I’m very lucky. I’ve got over a 90% chance of cure rate, but it’s very scary and it’s not enjoyable going through. …I can’t go on the road and do radiation and chemotherapy in different cities around the country. To continue my treatment, I need to step away from the team.”
Per the ESPN report, Joerger noticed a lump in his throat approximately 15 months ago, however, the initial scan was negative. It continued to bother him, though, so Joerger had it checked again five weeks ago.
The Sixers React
Shortly after Wojnarowski’s report came out, the Sixers released official statements from Joerger and others. In his own statement, Joerger expressed confidence in his ability to combat the disease while espousing the importance of self-care:
Over the last few months, I learned the importance of self-evaluation and care, early detection and annual medical exams. I know I will beat this diagnosis with the help of my world-class medical team at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.
The statement from Sixers’ coach Doc Rivers:
Dave is not only one of the most talented and respected coaches in the NBA, but he’s a great friend, colleague, husband and father. The same positivity, enthusiasm and grit that have made him a successful coach will also carry him through his fight against cancer. I know I speak for everyone at the 76ers when I say, “Get well soon, we love you and we’ll be with you throughout this entire process. Your battle is our battle.”
Elsewhere, a number of Sixers players expressed their support of Joerger via social media.
“Coach I know you’ll beat this. I know you will be fine. YOU are not alone, and you’ll never be. Sending you and your family much love,” tweeted Furkan Korkmaz.
“Prayers up to Coach! Know he is going to beat this and come back stronger than ever!” added Georges Niang.
“One of the greatest ppl I’ve come across and he will win this battle Bc he’s a warrior…” tweeted Danny Green. “Many prayers out to coach Joerger and his family.”
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Joerger at a Glance
At the conclusion of his time as a collegiate player in 1997, Joerger joined the International Basketball Association’s Dakota Wizards as the team’s general manager. He went on to become an assistant and, eventually, assumed head coaching duties. Meanwhile, the Wizards joined the CBA and, later, the NBA’s D-League.
In 2007, Memphis Grizzlies coach Marc Iavaroni brought Joerger on as an assistant, a post he would continue to hold as the team moved on to the Lionel Hollins era. In 2013, he finally got his big shot, replacing Hollins as head coach.
During his three years at the helm in Memphis, Joerger had a coaching record of 147-99. He also secured playoff berths all three years.
Joerger became head coach of the Sacramento Kings in 2016 and went on to log a 98-148 record over three seasons. He would join the Sixers as an assistant in November of 2020.