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December 13, 2008

Fifth Coaching Change: Cheeks Canned

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kevin Pelton @ 2:24 pm

Really? Really!? Really?!?!? This is just getting ridiculous. If you were an NBA head coach on opening night – 46 days ago, off the top of my head – there is now a one in six chance you would no longer be coaching that team.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the latest team to join the coaching carousel, apparently firing Philly legend Maurice Cheeks. As recently as the end of last season, Cheeks seemed in good standing after a surprise playoff run. But that, along with the addition of Elton Brand, raised expectations (nowhere more so than on this site, with SCHOENE suggesting the Sixers were a legitimate contender to win not only the East but the whole thing) and Philadelphia has really struggled this season.

What has done the 76ers in is a lack of outside shooting, along with the difficulty of integrating Brand into the lineup. Philadelphia is defending well, but ranks a dismal 28th in the NBA in Offensive Rating. Even with the shooting woes, that kind of performance is inexcusable given the track record of the 76ers’ starters.

The baffling part of this move is Cheeks’ reported¬†interim replacement – Tony DiLeo, Philadelphia’s senior vice president and assistant general manager. Like new Washington head man Ed Tapscott, DiLeo has been in the front office for a lengthy period. He has no apparent head coaching experience in the U.S. (DiLeo did coach in West Germany in the 1980s, and the fact that it was still West Germany at the time emphasizes how long ago this was).

You’ll sometimes see a situation like this when a team is out of contention and wants a member of the front office to evaluate the players and play young guys (Kevin Pritchard‘s stint on the bench in Portland preceding Nate McMillan has now been almost forgotten, while Tony Barone in Memphis is another example). That doesn’t seem to be the case, as the 76ers still have plenty of time to make a run at the postseason. Philly’s interim options were limited, but I’m surprised that the team apparently won’t bring someone more experienced in from the outside.

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