Well here it is: A change. Is it the right change? Is it the change that will propel the 76ers forward. From the beginning, from that 2-5 start, we pointed to this time frame. We said, "Wait for the 20-to-25 game mark." Here it is, 23 games.
If you're looking for the nuts and bolts story of Mo Cheeks firing, click here: Mo Fired.
If you're looking forward, keep reading.
Tony DiLeo. He's the new head coach of the Sixers. Quick bio on Coach DiLeo: He is the Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager. He's been in the Sixers organization for 19 season, serving as the Director of Player Personnel from 1999-2003. Basically, he has been Ed Stefanski's right-hand man. Over the years DiLeo has had his hand in the operations, coaching, scouting, and management. He spent 10 seasons coaching and playing in West Germany. He was West Germany's Coach of the Year in 1987.
Should Cheeks have been fired?
Interestingly enough (from my perspective), I was sitting next to DiLeo at Thursday afternoon's practice at PCOM. We were watching Reggie Evans shoot free throws. And, as we all know, Reggie Evans can use some help shooting free throws. DiLeo, when he played, was a shooter. Through the first couple months of the season, he has (jokingly, I believe) challenged me to a shooting contest. Who would win? I think there is little doubt. Anyway, while we were sitting there, DiLeo offered a few very specific instructions to Evans. All of them worked. For no reasons other than I was curious, I asked DiLeo if he ever wanted to do anything other than work on the management side of basketball. He said he loved coaching, too. But he was clear that never, at any point, would he want to be doing anything other than working within the game of basketball.
I'm not sure why I asked him these things. But it serves our purpose right now, since DiLeo will be the head honcho for the last 60 games of the season or so.
But let's discuss, for a second, Maurice Cheeks. Was the 9-14 start his fault? Or is he the fall guy for a poorly constructed roster?
Right now, I think it's both. We can't argue with some in-game coaching moves, especially rotations. There were certain games I believe were lost because of misuse of the roster, within the game, (specifically the Atlanta game and the Orlando game). But I also believe the moves Cheeks made in the Detroit Pistons game were perfect. His moves won that game for the Sixers. If you add those numbers, you're left with Cheeks impact being -- about -- neutral. Perhaps he struggled to understand how to reconcile the team's mantra of "we're still run-and-gun," with a roster that doesn't necessarily support that identity. Instead of modifying the identity, he kept plugging away, kept trying to be the team the Sixers were last season, when they made that run to the playoffs. Can you blame him? I guess it doesn't matter what we say, the Sixers organization dropped the blame on him.
Let's look forward. What does this move mean? What can we now expect from this team?
The roster hasn't changed. They're still a team divided. By that I mean you have guys -- Andre Iguodala, Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Samuel Dalembert -- who excel in transition, but the supposed face of the franchise -- Elton Brand -- who doesn't. He doesn't. I don't care how hard the Sixers tried to tell us all he could run (remember that this summer?). Recently, Brand has been slowed even further by a strained right hamstring. He has admitted he isn't 100% healthy. When the Los Angeles Clippers were in town, Brand's old teammates even mentioned confusion about how he (Brand) would fit into the Sixers uptemo system. They said it didn't fit him.
That's the main issue right now: This team's identity doesn't match its roster.
In comes DiLeo. I'm a fan of DiLeo's (not that that should matter much to anyone). This guy knows basketball. He's been at every game (I believe). He almost always travels with the team. He knows everything about every player's strengths and weaknesses. You know he has been sitting on the sidelines through the first 23 games. You know his mind has been churning about what he might have done differently in certain situations. We can't argue that a change was needed. Maybe he will find the right rotations. Maybe he will impose a different energy (Mo was known to be laid back) that will make the Sixers pay attention. These are all good things.
Here is what needs to be figured out: Andre Iguodala isn't a shooting guard, but Thaddeus Young needs to start. Should the Sixers go small? Will DiLeo keep the starting lineup used for most of the season (Miller, Iguodala, Young, Brand, and Dalembert) or toss his own spin onto the situation? I vote for the latter. Because, one would think, that's why this move was made.
In talking to various scouts throughout the league, this team is a mess. It wasn't a facade at the beginning of the year, all the scouts said they legitimately expected the Sixers to be better. But most leave the game shaking their heads in confusion (much as we've been doing all season).
And there is your Saturday update ...