For roughly the millionth time in pro sports history, mistakes by the front office have cost the coach his job. Between the team-altering free agent signing of Elton Brand and an inopportune 2-8 stretch that pushed Philly’s record to 9-14, the environment became too toxic for Maurice Cheeks to keep his job, and according to the PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, the four-year head coach was fired today.
It’s hard to say what’s more ludicrous: that five head coaches have already been fired in a season that isn’t even a third of the way finished, or the notion that Cheeks was the problem in the Illadelph. As ESPN.COM correctly notes, “[a]fter signing Elton Brand… the Sixers have looked nothing like last season’s up-tempo squad that advanced to the playoffs.” Indeed, the production of Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, and Thaddeus Young have all tailed off; each is at least three points lower on the Hollinger Efficiency Index this year compared to last. For a team whose offense relied on its superior athleticism, adding a reliable but lumbering beast like Elton Brand was like putting lead Pumas on Usain Bolt.
And though there’s no column in the stat sheet for Nice Guy Points, it’s still worth noting that Cheeks is one of the good citizens of the NBA. Lest we forget, while he was still coaching in Portland a few years back, before one game, the young girl singing the national anthem began forgetting the words. What transpired next was one of the best PR moments for a league that was starving for them at the time:
But yes, let’s fire him because he couldn’t plug one of the slowest forwards in the league into a hyper-athletic system. Clearly Cheeks’ fault that $80 million just got thrown away on that experiment. Luckily, in a McHale-esque moment of breathtaking genius, the front office has installed one of its own, assistant GM and Senior VP Tony DiLeo, at interim head coach. DiLeo has never coached in America; his sole coaching experience has been with the West German national team from 1979-1990. That’s all. He hasn’t coached in nearly two decades. The obvious impending horror show that will be Philly’s offense for the rest of the year will doubtlessly vindicate Cheeks, who–while not terribly effective–definitely doesn’t deserve to get done like this.