(Sports Network) - In his first detailed conversation since being fired by Penn State, Joe Paterno says he didn't know how to handle hearing a report from an assistant who said he saw Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy in the university showers.
"In hindsight," Paterno told the Washington Post in an interview published Saturday, "I wish I had done more."
Paterno said he was "afraid" to jeopardize university procedure after assistant coach Mike McQueary knocked on his door on a Saturday morning, sat at his kitchen table and described what he had seen.
McQueary left out graphic details, Paterno said. But the legendary Nittany Lions coach wasn't sure he would have been able to comprehend the details anyway. And he was unsure of how to handle the information he had.
"So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did," Paterno said. "It didn't work out that way."
Former Penn State athletic director Tim Curley and Gary Schultz, who oversaw the university's police department, will go to trial on charges they lied about and failed to report alleged assaults by Sandusky.
Sandusky has denied dozens of charges against himself that he systematically abuse children, using his Second Mile charity to groom potential victims.
Paterno hasn't been charged with a crime and likely won't be. But he lost his decades-old job as head coach at Penn State when he was fired by trustees in November amid criticism he didn't do enough to stop the alleged abuse.
On the night he was fired, Paterno says an assistant athletic director knocked on the door and handed him a slip of paper with a phone number to call. After he dialed the number and was terminated, his wife, Sue, called back to say her husband "deserved better" after 61 years of service.
Joe Paterno is battling lung cancer now and sat in a wheelchair for at least part of his interview because of a broken pelvis. He is undergoing radiation and chemotherapy treatments for his cancer and was wearing a wig. During his interview, the paper said, a lawyer and communications advisor were present.
"I wish I knew" how Sandusky's alleged abuse avoided detection, Paterno said. "I don't know the answer to that. It's hard."
He said he would be "sick about" the abuse, if Sandusky is found guilty of the charges, and waited so long to finally talk about the case because he "wanted everybody to settle down."
He said he was unaware of a 1998 police investigation involving a complaint from a mother of a Second Mile child who said Sandusky had abused her son in a shower.
"Nobody knew about it," he said.
01/14 18:19:47 ET