Saturday, December 13, 2008

No Mo Cheeks

Thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies run to the World Series championship this fall, the bar has been measurably raised for all of the other sports franchises in the city. The Flyers have responded on the ice with a tremendous run that has seen the team rise from an embarrassing winless start to the brink of their division lead. The Eagles seemed dead just a couple weeks ago, now they are back in playoff contention having beaten the best team in football.

The 76ers, however, have floundered and fallen into last place. A late-season run to the playoffs just eight months ago was enough to get coach Maurice 'Mo' Cheeks a contract extension, but apparently that extension was not enough to guarantee his job. The team struggled to open this season, floundering around the .500 mark for the first month before their recent bottom-out. Management simply did not like what they were seeing, and the first head to roll in the Philly coaching community was lopped off. The 76ers fired Mo Cheeks, a popular local legend as a player.

That recipe has not seemed to work real well, by the way. Both Bobby Clarke as a GM and Bill Barber as the coach with the Flyers organization were unceremoniously dumped despite their legendary player status. Only Billy Cunningham, who coached Cheeks' 1983 Sixers to the NBA Championship and was a player on the Sixers 1967 NBA title team, has had true, lengthy success here after also having a strong playing career here.

There is something wrong with the mix on the Philadelphia 76ers pro basketball team. I don't know what that might be, but I do know that the local hoops squad has not been a serious NBA title contender for a long time. Even in Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson's best seasons, the Sixers were barely true contenders. The argument can be made that not since Cheeks himself ran down the court and dunked for the clinching moment of that '83 title have the 76ers been a real threat to win it all.

Hopefully GM Ed Stefanski can get a handle on both the coaching situation and the player roster, and move this franchise in a direction that will not only get the fan base excited again, but give them a title contender to root for. I don't know if firing Cheeks was the right move. Frankly, the Sixers are #4 on the list of local sports teams for me. I would like to root for them again, but they just don't interest me. That was not Cheeks fault, I liked the guy and had good feelings of his history with that title team. Stefanski is now on the hot seat to build that excitement-generating contender.

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