- Associated Press - Friday, December 30, 2011

DALLAS — Surrounded at home by energetic grandchildren on his 85th birthday, former Penn State coach Joe Paterno offered his family perspective about the turbulent two months during which he lost his job and learned he had lung cancer.

The Hall of Fame coach wasn’t dwelling on being fired over the phone following 46 seasons.

Joe never sits around and complains about what’s happened to him,” his son, Jay, said Friday. “We’re sitting there on his birthday and he said, ‘Look, I’ve got 17 healthy grandkids, I’ve got give five healthy kids’ … Joe’s always a guy who looks at the bright side (of) everything.”

The elder Paterno was dismissed last month in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. Paterno was diagnosed several days later with what his family has called a treatable form of lung cancer.

Jay Paterno, the Nittany Lions’ quarterbacks coach, said his father, who turned 85 on Dec. 21, is improving as he continues to take radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

“He’s a fighter. … He never gets down,” he said. “He fights and this is another challenge for him.”

Jay Paterno and the Nittany Lions were at a Dallas high school for a team practice Friday for the TicketCity Bowl on Monday against Houston.

Joe Paterno hasn’t spoken publicly since his firing. He has called the allegations troubling and urged the public to let the legal process unfold.

Paterno initially announced his retirement on Nov. 9, effective at the end of the season. That day, he called the scandal “one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

The trustees fired him about 12 hours later, amid mounting criticism that school leaders should have done more to prevent the alleged abuse.

The state attorney general’s office has said Joe Paterno, who testified before a grand jury investigating Sandusky, is not a target of the probe. Sandusky is awaiting trial after pleading not guilty earlier this month.

The tense end to Paterno’s tenure has raised questions about what’s next for Happy Valley’s first family of football. Jay Paterno declined to confirm or deny reports he had interviewed for the head-coaching job.

Regardless, the younger Paterno insisted he would consider staying in State College pending the right opportunity — whether or not it was related to football.

“Let’s just say I’m not going to run for attorney general any time soon, or governor or things like that,” said the younger Paterno, who campaigned for President Barack Obama in 2008. “I’ve got to see what’s going on, sit down and talk to my wife and kids. … I don’t want to get in a situation of moving just to move.”

Staying in Happy Valley would not be difficult “once everything comes out and once everybody sees everything what’s happened, I don’t think it will be tough,” Jay Paterno said. “I think people will realize that … Joe conducted himself in a way that his consistent with his character, and we’ll see that eventually.”

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