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Riverton • In his immaculate, memorabilia-filled home office, Jerry Sloan sits in a chair beneath a framed handwritten letter from President Barack Obama.

He smiles.

"I'm not looking for publicity," he tells a reporter. "But I feel I have to talk straight to people so they know what's going on."

So here's the news, as straightforwardly as Sloan would deliver it himself.

The former Jazz coach and Hall of Famer — the coach with the third most wins in NBA history — is battling Parkinson's disease and a form of dementia called Lewy body dementia.

The prognosis is unkind.

There is no cure for Parkinson's disease, although, in some cases, medication can "markedly improve symptoms." But in Sloan's case, the symptoms continue to progress.

Lewy body dementia is a neurological disorder that manifests itself as difficulty with memory, problem solving, planning and analytical thinking. While the numbers differ, Lewy Body Association says about 1.4 million Americans have the disease.

'It was life and death once' • "You try to be optimistic," says Tammy Sloan, seated next to her husband. "But it is what it is. Jerry's had a wonderful life — the best life you can possibly imagine. But this is not going to reverse itself and go away."

There are good days, however.

"When a basketball game comes on TV," Tammy Sloan said, "he knows everything that's ever happened."

"It was life and death once," her husband noted.

Last week, Judy Adams, a former Utah Jazz executive assistant, organized a surprise party for Sloan's 74th birthday. A handful of close friends attended, including Frank Layden, who hired Sloan as one of his assistant Jazz coaches in 1984.

"Every day is a different day," Tammy Sloan said. "Some days he's fine, and some days he's not so fine. But at that birthday party, he was as normal as he's ever been. … He was in prime form, telling stories."

Sloan's health issues surfaced about a year ago, when his wife first noticed some Parkinson's-like symptoms, including a tremor in his right hand. After talking to his son, who is a doctor, Sloan decided to undergo neurological tests.

The diagnosis, made last fall, was infinitely more devastating than any last-second loss. With a tear glistening in his eye, Sloan said, "It was a little scary because I thought, 'Now what am I going to do? My career is over.' "

Hall of Fame career • Sloan, 74, coached the Jazz from 1988 to 2011. He was elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009. Two NBA coaches have more wins than Sloan's 1,221 — Don Nelson (1,335) and Lenny Wilkens (1,332).

Known for his fiery competitiveness, Sloan replaced Layden as head coach on Dec. 9, 1988, after four seasons as a Chicago Bulls coach and four with the Jazz.

Over the next 23 seasons, he guided the Jazz to a record of 1,127-682. Utah reached the Western Conference finals five times between 1992 and 1998.

With a team built around Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone, Sloan coached the Jazz to the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998, where they lost both times to the Bulls.

An abrupt exit • Sloan walked away from coaching suddenly, quitting midway through the 2010-11 season after tiring of battles with Jazz point guard Deron Williams — who was later shipped to the Brooklyn Nets in a deal that brought power forward Derrick Favors to Utah.

He has worked as a consultant for the Jazz in recent years, but he hasn't done much lately, other than a little scouting and endorsing the selection of rookie Trey Lyles in last year's NBA draft.

On Wednesday evening, the Jazz saluted their longtime coach.

"Jerry Sloan is and always will be a beloved member of the Utah Jazz family, and we know he will approach this fight with the same grit and determination he displayed as a Hall of Fame coach and All-Star player in the NBA for 40-plus years," the team said in a statement.

"On behalf of the Miller family, the Jazz organization and Jazz fans everywhere, we send Jerry and his wife ,Tammy, our love, support and best wishes."

Friends and the future • Sloan is unsure of what lies ahead.

"The shaking has gotten worse," he said. "Everything else has stayed about the same. That's why, each day, I'm waiting for something drastic to happen. But nothing like that has happened so far."

Sloan continues to see several doctors. He has a checkup scheduled for Thursday at the University of Utah. At the urging of former Jazz star John Stockton, he has also driven to Pocatello for some nontraditional treatments.

Attempts to reach Stockton and Karl Malone were not immediately successful Wednesday evening.

"John thinks he's going to find a cure," Tammy Sloan said. "And we're like, 'Yeah. Go, John.' "

Sloan grimaces at the mention of Pocatello, where he gets injections into his head.

"That's a fun trip," he quipped. "They go all the way around with a needle."

Said Tammy Sloan: "I don't even watch."

Once, during a discussion of possible ways to fight his illnesses, a doctor suggested Sloan learn a foreign language to help keep his mind active, and to start playing the piano to help his coordination.

He declined: "I didn't like school. I didn't even like holding a pencil."

At home these days, Sloan maintains a routine that includes a 4-mile walk every morning. He usually takes his dog. His wife keeps an updated calendar of events on the large wooden desk in his office to help him remember any approaching events in their lives. Like an upcoming trip to the DMV.

Sloan also must pass a test every six months to keep his driver license. He did so last fall and hopes to do it again, even though Tammy does most of the driving.

"That test a little intimidating at this point," Sloan said. "But I don't want to be complaining. You do what you can do. People have to live their own life without worrying about someone like myself."

Twitter: @sluhm

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