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January 25, 2004

by J.A. Adande

SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Sloan has been coaching for so many years and been asked about it so many times he has stock reasons to explain why he has the longest tenure of any head coach in American pro sports.

"The players haven't run me off," he says.

"Our ownership has given me the opportunity to coach the team and stuck behind us when things haven't gone very well."

In reality, there's only one reason Sloan, 61, continues to coach the Utah Jazz for a 16th consecutive season: His wife won't let him quit.

He has been married to Bobbye, his high school sweetheart, for four decades. She is the mother of his three children and together they have shared the joy of seven grandchildren.

On Jan. 6, Jerry told Utah reporters that Bobbye, 60, had a biopsy.

In a quiet moment in the locker room of his new team that night, Karl Malone, a cornerstone of Jerry Sloan's Jazz teams for 18 seasons, predicted that if the biopsy results were bad Jerry would quit to be with his wife.

The news was beyond bad. Bobbye had a malignant tumor in her pancreas. One Jazz official said Jerry was prepared to leave.

Only it wasn't his decision.

"He's going to go on with his job whether he wants to or not," Bobbye said at a news conference Jan. 8. "My biggest pleasure has been watching this wonderful team that everyone put together, and you're not going to take that away from me."

So Sloan, who's so good at getting grown men to do what he wants, followed orders. And he continued to do what he has done as well as anyone in the business: coach basketball.

"I don't know anything else," he says.

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