The 76ers fired Mo Cheeks over the weekend, but he was as gracious and classy as ever while saying goodbye in today's press conference, even going as far as saying he'd be open to returning to the team in another role. And really, should we have expected any less?
He may have coached for only three years and change, but he spent 11 years with the team as a player. That's his legacy in Philadelphia, not the fact that his team got off to a poor start in the first 23 games. From Kate Fagan of the Philadelphia Inquirer:
"Anytime you get let go it hurts, not being able to finish ... finish what we started. I really thought we had an opportunity to win."
"It does come down to having certain players who can do certain things. But it also comes down to the coach getting the certain players to do certain things."
In my own opinion, I think the Sixers acted too soon. Cheeks not only got the team into the playoffs last year but also had the Pistons on the ropes early in their first-round matchup. And while their 9-14 start to this season is disappointing, it's also not a huge surprise considering they've integrated a new focal point to their offense (Elton Brand) and asked last year's leading scorer (Andre Iguodala) to switch positions.
In a perfect world things would have clicked instantly, but it's not unreasonable to think it might take longer than the quarter mark of the season for everyone to get adjusted. But now that Philly pulled the trigger, I wouldn't expect Cheeks to be unemployed for any longer than he wants to be.
There are some quality coaches still looking for jobs (Flip Saunders, Avery Johnson, Eddie Jordan ...), but Cheeks has a history of developing young talent. Some coaches really know how to get the most out of a veteran squad but flop when handed a young team. That's not Cheeks. Talking to him during last year's playoffs, I was struck by how much he enjoyed teaching his players just as much as he enjoyed calling plays and juggling a rotation. If he's up for the challenge, he'd be the first guy on my list to take over a rebuilding project like Oklahoma City, Sacramento or (should the job open up) Memphis.