While it seems like all the news surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers these days is about disgruntled superstar Ben Simmons and whether or not he will be traded any time soon, there was more important news that broke over the weekend. On Saturday, the team’s top assistant coach, Dave Joeger, told ESPN that he had been diagnosed with stage one cancer and will be stepping away from the team as a result.
“We have caught it early,” Joerger said, via 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.”
Joeger had revealed his diagnosis to Philadelphia players and staff following their game on Saturday evening against the Indiana Pacers. Head coach Doc Rivers, president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and team owner Josh Harris had already been informed by Joeger.
“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,” Rivers said in a team statement. “The same positivity, enthusiasm and grit that have made him a successful coach will also carry him through his fight against cancer.”
The 47-year-old had been undergoing treatment for about two weeks already, but with the 76ers about to go on an extended road trip the assistant coach will have to stay back for treatments.
“The first two weeks of radiation are not terrible,” Joerger told ESPN. “What will happen, in seven weeks total of treatment, it keeps compounding onto itself…You can hear me now – I don’t sound great.
“But it’s only going to get worse as far as [my] ability to swallow, [my] ability to speak, [my] ability to keep food down. It’s been enjoyable coming to work, but at times it can be a little strenuous.”
Joeger began his coaching career with the Dakota Wizards in the International Basketball Association, before moving to the Continental Basketball Association with the franchise. He had won three championships with the Wizards before moving to the D-League, where he won a championship in 2007. After his success in the minor leagues, he was hired as an assistant coach by the Memphis Grizzlies prior to the start of the 2007-08 season. He eventually became the head coach in 2013 before being fired in 2015.
Along with the Grizzlies, Joeger was also a head coach in Sacramento with the Kings, before moving to Philadelphia as an assistant in November 2020. Joeger lasted three seasons with the Kings, but was never able to lead them to the playoffs.
The 76ers are hoping to have their assistant coach back with the squad full time sooner rather than later, but it remains to be seen what the timeline for his return will be. The focus is clearly on undergoing the proper treatments and ensuring Joeger can be healthy and cancer-free.