SALT LAKE CITY--Everybody, Kyle Korver says, knows the story of then-Portland Trail Blazers coach Maurice Cheeks helping a nervous young girl get through the pre-game National Anthem.
''That one was on TV, everybody saw that,'' said Korver, who is celebrating today's one-year anniversary of being traded from the 76ers to the Utah Jazz. ''But he has moments like that all the time. He'd go around to people behind the scenes, the security guards; he was nice to everybody. It's just the person he is.
"(The firing is) a sad deal. I played for a lot of coaches in Philly. I had him the longest. I really enjoyed him as a coach and as a person. He's the biggest players' coach I've ever played for. His door is always open; you could always talk to him. During practice, he would ask you what you thought, how you wanted to guard a pick-and-roll, how you wanted to run a play. He's a really good guy, and he's going to bounce back somewhere.''
The Sixers are 3-3 under replacement coach Tony DiLeo, and are holding a three-game losing streak going into tonight's game against the Jazz. Utah dropped a 120-115 double overtime game in Houston Saturday night, playing without the injured Carlos Boozer, Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur. Okur, who had been struggling with back spasms, said after this morning's shootaround that he expected to play tonight. He was being listed as a game-time decision, as was Jarron Collins, who has had an inflamed right elbow.
But back to Cheeks.
Scott Brooks, the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching replacement for the fired P.J. Carlesimo, weighs in with this memory of his rookie season with the Sixers:
He had grown up as a huge fan of Cheeks and Julius Erving. But after making the squad, he had to carry Cheeks' jersey and shoes to practice every day.
''After the last game, I never gave his jersey back to him,'' Brooks told Thunder reporters. ''Back then, if you kept your jersey after the season the team charged you $400. I probably cost him $400. Now, they probably give hundreds of them away. What's funny is, five years later I had Maurice sign the jersey.''
As for the firing, Brooks said "No one wants to see that happen. He was my buddy. He's a guy I looked up to. But we all understand it's a tough business. That's what keeps us going. That's why we love what we do.''