Wednesday, May 25, 2005

If It's The Offseason, It Must Be Another Coaching Change For The 76'ers

The typical pose of a 76'ers coach after a season on the job

The only brotherly love being offered in Philadelphia, when it comes to the NBA team that plays there, is by way of all the men 76'ers GM Billy King has been making head coaches recently.

"Step right up and coach the 76'ers! Take your chances! One full season to see what you can do! Or less if your luck runs out!," King might as well be barking into a megaphone in the parking lot of the Wachovia Spectrum.

Ever since Larry Brown left to coach the Pistons two summers ago, King has been going through head coaches like Liz Taylor used to go through husbands. The irony is that Brown, noted for his nomadic coaching career, bouncing from team to team like, well, a basketball, is still in Detroit, and King has been running men in and out of Wachovia like he's playing some sort of NBA version of "The Dating Game."

"I just didn't like the direction our team was going in," King said announcing his latest hatchet job -- firing coach Jim O'Brien after the now usual one season on the Sixers bench.

This came just a few weeks after King said there would be no coaching change this summer, an annual rite now in Philly. Apparently King had a change of heart after discussing the matter with his players and other club officials. Perhaps the urge to can coaches is a bit too much for King to resist.

But, just as former pro football coach Bum Phillips once said, "If they want to fire you, they'll come up with a reason -- he's too mean, he's too nice. They'll find a reason to fire you."

O'Brien's homecoming to the Philly area -- he attended nearby St. Joseph's University and was an assistant there in the late 70's -- turned sour because his style supposedly clashed with the desires and abilities of his players. The same old song. The song sung by losing franchises.

Since Brown fled to Detroit, the Sixers have tried Randy Ayers (promoted from being a Brown assistant), Chris Ford (promoted from being an Ayers assistant), and O'Brien (promoted from being unemployed).

Since Brown (left) signed with Detroit, the Sixers
have tried Ayers (center) and O'Brien, along with
Chris Ford on an interim basis

Now they will try Maurice Cheeks, the former Sixers point guard, fresh off his defrocking in Portland, where he was 162-139 coaching the Trailblazers. Actually, to have that good of a winning percentage coaching one of the most dysfunctional teams in the NBA, past or present, should make Cheeks aptly qualified to coach any team, any time.

Cheeks was one of the Sixers' most popular players

Well, Allen Iverson is happy about the hiring of Cheeks, and that's a start. Iverson grew fond of Mo when Cheeks was an assistant under Larry Brown, and at the press conference yesterday Iverson joked he was so pleased about the hire that he'd kiss Mo on the mouth. Cheeks' response, unfortunately, was not preserved for history.

"If you got a problem with Mo Cheeks, there must be something wrong with you," Iverson declared at the press conference, also becoming an annual event in Philadelphia.

Please, please -- someone mark those words and refer to them again sometime around next December or January!

Actually, maybe Iverson means all those nice things and there will indeed be Brotherly Love -- Basketball Style, in Sixer Land next season, and the seasons beyond.

King better hope so. In pro sports, GM's don't usually get this many opportunities to fire coaches before they get axed themselves. I sort of get the feeling that the next press conference at Wachovia will be to announce a new GM, not a new coach.

Notice that Iverson didn't mention kissing King anywhere, much less on the mouth.

1 comment:

Corey said...

I think this coaching situation works because Cheeks is going to have the support of management with it comes to keeping his players in check. And more importantly he'll have the support of Iverson when it comes to keeping the players in check.

If they can resign Dalembert, there aren't many better situations out there than the Sixers (if Webber doesn't ruin it) with a good young core of role players and some mid-level money to build depth on the bench.

Nice work.