Dave Joerger is tired of slathering pancakes with butter and syrup. And of seeking out soft-textured proteins such as eggs and fish. And of downing scoops of mashed potatoes. It’s still difficult for Joerger to eat and swallow, making every meal and snack feel like a workout with the goal of collecting calories instead of burning them. But it sure beats the feeding tube the 76ers’ lead assistant coach had hooked to his stomach for weeks.
“Where I’ve been, it runs the gamut,” Joerger told The Inquirer by phone last week. “There’s times you feel, ‘This is not going to stop me. There’s nothing that can stop me. I’ve got such a great support system,’ and then there’s times you just don’t know if you can go on anymore. Physically, mentally, it’s like, ‘This hurts.’ It’s given me a great appreciation for all the gifts and all the things that we have been given. ... “Should it really take me getting cancer to realize all that? I feel like I’m pretty humble and I’ve always had an appreciation and a gratitude, but not certainly to the level of, ‘Wow, I have it good as a human being.’”
The treatment had a cumulative effect that wore Joerger down. He was physically unable to speak for about two weeks, responding to phone calls with a text message saying that he could only communicate through typed words. Wife Kimberly, whom Joerger called a “saint,” ground up his pills because of his inability to swallow. He had a stretch when his brain got “really foggy” that he still struggles to remember. And the COVID-19 omicron variant surge at that time was dangerous for Joerger because, as an immunocompromised person, “had I gotten COVID, I’d have been a real hot mess,” he said.
Dave Joerger left the Philadelphia 76ers in mid-November to focus on battling cancer. At that time, Joerger shared he had "head and neck" cancer. Because of early detection, Joerger said he had over a 90% chance of beating the cancer. Now, in early-February, Joerger is returning to the Sixers bench on a full-time basis. In a statement, Joerger expressed his thanks for the support he's received, as well as his excitement to be back.
“Words can’t describe how grateful I am to be back around this basketball team. The last several months have been some of the most challenging of my life, but I am so lucky to have the support of Josh Harris, David Blitzer, Doc Rivers, Daryl Morey, Elton Brand and the entire 76ers organization. Their support, along with my wife Kimberly, and my loving family, has been unwavering. Lastly, I may not be here today if it weren’t for the incredible medical team at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart. For now, I’m energized by the trajectory of this 76ers team and am looking forward to helping our group reach the ultimate goal of an NBA championship.”
Philadelphia 76ers top assistant coach Dave Joerger is leaving the team for several weeks to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments for a form of "head and neck" cancer, he told ESPN. Joerger, 47, has undergone treatments while coaching for the past two weeks -- missing only one road game -- but the Sixers' extended road trip requires him to step away and stay back for treatments in Philadelphia, he said.
Joerger told the Sixers players, assistant coaches and staff of his cancer in a postgame meeting after Saturday night's loss to the Pacers in Indiana. He had already told a small group of Sixers officials -- including coach Doc Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and owner Josh Harris -- of his recent diagnoses.
"We have caught it early," Joerger told ESPN. "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."
“It’s sad, it hurts, but his spirit is extremely high,” said Tyrese Maxey. “So when someone is going through something, but their spirit is high, it makes you believe in them and trust in them, and really have faith in them. It was tough. I dropped my head immediately when Iheard it, but as soon as he started talking and telling us that he’ll be fine. He’s okay, his spirit is extremely high, that made me happy. I just gave him a big hug andtold him I’m praying for him and I love him.”
“Sad news for sure,” added Tobias Harris. “We know he’s somebody who’s a fighter and somebody who’s going to do everything he can to push through and come out on top of it. For us, we’re definitely gonna miss him. Keep his family and him in all our prayers and just encourage him through this time to stay positive and just push through.”
Lauren Rosen: I don't know him well, but Dave Joerger is one of the best human beings I've crossed paths with in the NBA. He makes an effort, even with the little guys (me), to be kind, and to make people feel seen - which is not a job requirement. Sending coach & his family love. 💙❤️
August 17, 2022 | 8:47 pm EDT Update
Tommy Beer: Stephen A Smith on SiriumXM w/ @Rick Kamla this afternoon when asked about potential Mitchell deal: “Utah didn’t want Julius Randle, from what I’m told. They don’t want him. The Knicks were willing to unload him. They want RJ Barrett. They want at least 6 1st-round picks.” pic.twitter.com/9Nn7DuwlZe
I knew if we could win Game 3 and go to 3-0, it was pretty much a wrap on the series. It was just a matter of whether [the series would be won] in Game 4 or a “gentleman’s sweep” in Game 5. Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, we got a stop, and I was just talking to myself: “Put ‘em to sleep. Put ‘em to sleep.” That was the conversation I was having with myself. Not with anyone else on the team or anyone else in the arena. Then, I had finished that layup underneath Jokic, and that was the thought that came out – just to do the sign. I didn’t say, “Night Night” at the time. I was just telling myself, “Put ‘em to sleep.” Fast forward to Game 5, when I made the last layup to go up five with 19 seconds left. That was the official, “Put them to sleep.” The camera didn’t get me on that one, but I actually said it. Fast forward to Memphis, Dallas and then Boston, and it kind of took on a life of its own.
NDP: How did it feel to break it out again in Boston and seal the Finals win? SC: It felt the best. The way that game went, it was an emotional rollercoaster. They came out just hitting every shot, and they were up double digits in the first four minutes. We slowly just crept back and then went on that 21-nothing run. When we came out in the third quarter, everyone was feeling it. Let’s just step on their throats, right now.
NDP: What’s it been like seeing athletes from sports all around the world doing the celebration? SC: It’s the best, ’cause some are taking it to new extremes that I would never feel comfortable doing in the league. But it’s dope to know how far the reach is. I’ve told people before, “I know there’s people that did the symbol before me.” But to know that you cemented a moment that’s on the biggest of stages, and people are inspired by it and want to have fun with whatever they’re doing with it — they’ve taken their own spin on it and have had some creativity with it.
August 17, 2022 | 7:21 pm EDT Update
CJ Holmes: Here’s all four of the Warriors’ long road trips this season: Oct. 29 – Nov 4: Charlotte, Detroit, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans Dec. 13 – 27: Milwaukee, Indiana, Philadelphia, Toronto, New York, Brooklyn Jan 13 – 20: San Antonio, Chicago, Washington, Boston, Cleveland
Jason Dumas: Looks like a local artist in the LA area has painted a mural of JTA in Inglewood. It’ll be unveiled to the public tomorrow. I realized how impactful Juan was at the first Mexican-American to win an NBA Finals during the Warriors parade. Cool stuff. pic.twitter.com/rTPdj8Op4c
August 17, 2022 | 5:43 pm EDT Update
Marc Stein: The NBA’s new schedule has 55 baseball-style series in which the road team plays the same foe twice in a row without travel … up from 23 last season. Plus 33 instances on the schedule in which the road team stays in LA or New York to play both local teams on the same trip.