Via Yahoo! Sports:
Maurice Cheeks is getting a third shot to be an NBA head coach.The Detroit Pistons are desperately hoping he makes the most of the opportunity he was given Monday, when they announced the hiring and did not disclose the length of his deal.....The 56-year-old Cheeks spent the past four seasons as an Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach. The Chicago native was a four-time All-Star over 15 seasons in the NBA, helping the Sixers win a championship in 1983. He started his post-playing career with the Quad City Thunder, helping the team win the CBA title in 1994, and later went on to be a Sixers assistant for John Lucas, Johnny Davis and Larry Brown - one of Detroit's many coaches in recent years.
We always talk about how well a head coach is doing, but he's far from the only guy on the sidelines. He's got a whole team of assistants helping him out and making decisions. Exactly to what extent is always mysterious, though. We've always got a vague idea of what an assistant coach does or what he helps out with, bu information beyond that is mostly scarce and usually comes from hearsay.
Nonetheless, it's a sad day when you lose Mo Cheeks' presence on the sideline. As I've said, it's unclear exactly what he brought to the table, but it's clear that he was Brooks' #2 guy and brought a lot of previous coaching experience. As a head coach, his tenures were tumultuous and slightly underwhelming. In the early 2000s, he led the Rasheed Wallace-era of Jailblazers, enduring a first round exit twice and eventually failing to make the playoffs. In the mid-2000s, he piloted the Double AI era 76ers, but the talent never seemed to mesh correctly and he ended up finishing around .500 several times.
Even though those teams never made it to the promiseland, perhaps their rosters provide an insight into what Mo Cheeks' provided the Thunder. A quick glance at those teams will tell you that Cheeks has managed to coach some of the league's biggest and wildest personalities. On Philadelphia's roster, there's Allen Iverson. He was such a locker-room cancer that all NBA teams refused to sign him in his late career, despite his excellent level of talent. There was also Chris Webber, who received numerous questions about his commitment throughout his tenure there. While Cheeks was in Portland, he had to deal with Rasheed Wallace, who got ejected from several games and was also noted for not giving his all. He also had to deal with a slew of knuckleheads, like Bonzi Wells, Ruben Patterson, and Darius Miles.
However, on the Thunder, you'll seldom hear a peep from the players when they're off the court. I can count all of the legal incidents concerning Thunder players on my right hand. By the same token, there's rarely any internal conflict, though it's somewhat known that Kendrick Perkins works as the defacto team therapist.
Obviously, Cheeks doesn't choose whom he's given to coach, but I can't help but think his previous experience was invaluable when he came to Oklahoma City. He knew how to deal with some of the league's most maligned players, and that had to have helped develop the sense of team that the Thunder have developed.
On the other hand, we won't truly know Cheeks' impact until he leaves. When top assistant Ron Adams for Chicago left a couple of years ago, it was apparent that the defense took a huge hit. I actually made a post about it at the time, and the problem wasn't solved until the Thunder traded for the defensive-minded Kendrick Perkins. I think we might see a similar difference this season.
Also important is who the Thunder will sign to replace Cheeks. With his departure, the Thunder's staff looks a little bit inexperienced in comparison to other teams (Rex Kalamian excluded), so they might look to hire from another team. Still, all of that's up in the air right now, and we have nothing definite to go on.
What do you think of Mo Cheeks' depature? How will he do in Detroit? Let us know in the comments!