Bobbye Sloan dies after battle with cancer

Updated: June 18, 2004, 8:30 PM ET
Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY -- Bobbye Sloan, the wife of Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan, died Friday after battling cancer, the team said. She was 61.

Sloan, the coach's wife of 41 years, announced in January she had a malignant tumor in her pancreas, unrelated to the breast cancer she was treated for and fought publicly several years ago.

She died Friday morning at a hospital in Evansville, Ind., Jazz spokeswoman Caroline Shaw said.

"She was such a positive, upbeat person," Jazz owner Larry Miller said Friday. "There was a lot of energy and strength of character with a really positive image. It's the image I hope that all of us who know here will keep of her."

Jerry Sloan considered leaving coaching to be with his wife, but she wanted him to continue coaching. He finished the season, guiding the Jazz to a 42-40 record that left them just short of the playoffs.

After the season, Sloan said he planned to return for a 17th year coaching the Jazz, although that depended on his wife's health. He also said 2003-04 would be memorable more for his life off the court than for the team's accomplishment.

Miller said he received a message from Jerry Sloan during a meeting Friday that Bobbye had died. The Sloans had been spending the offseason at their southern Illinois farm, near where they grew up and were high school sweethearts.

Miller said Sloan would have all the time he wants to decide whether to continue coaching.

"I'm not trying to anticipate what he'll really wind up doing, but I certainly hope he'll stay with the team," Miller said.

Miller had not spoken with Sloan and planned to give him some time with his family, who were with him Friday.

Bobbye Sloan was diagnosed with breast cancer after Utah's 1997 NBA finals loss to the Chicago Bulls. She fought and won a very public battle with the disease, but had been ill before the January announcement with flu-like symptoms.

A private family service will be held the morning of June 26 in McLeansboro, Ill., followed that afternoon by a public memorial at the local high school.

Bobbye Sloan is survived by her husband, three children and eight grandchildren.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press