Ex-76ers coach O'Brien says Webber did not like fit in Philadelphia

Updated: January 21, 2008, 5:57 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Chris Webber never really fit in Philadelphia, dissatisfied with his role, the offensive system and all the losing in nearly two ill-fated years with the 76ers.

Former coach Jim O'Brien saw the unhappiness forming early in Webber's tenure, shortly after the former All-Star forward was acquired from Sacramento near the 2005 trade deadline.

"He clearly was toward the end of his career," O'Brien said Monday.

O'Brien, now in his first year coaching Indiana, was fired after only one season in Philadelphia. Webber played 21 games for the Sixers that year, but rarely hid his distaste about playing for O'Brien. The pair clashed almost from the beginning and Webber called the final 21 games "timeout times 50," a reference to his infamous gaffe at Michigan in the 1993 national championship game.

It became very apparent he wasn't going to give the 76ers everything we had hoped for.

--Jim O'Brien

"It became very apparent he wasn't going to give the 76ers everything we had hoped for," O'Brien said.

Speaking openly about Webber for the first time since he was fired at the end of 2005, O'Brien said before Indiana's game at Philadelphia that the forward was never interested in practice or truly committed to the offensive scheme.

"Webber didn't practice at all that year prior to coming to us," O'Brien said. "He didn't practice at all the previous six weeks. I think he was just at the point where he didn't necessarily feel where he was in need of practice, or could practice, or couldn't practice and play at the same time."

O'Brien said he wanted to actively use Webber, who had lost some mobility and agility after microfracture knee surgery, in the low post to open up shots for 3-point threat Kyle Korver.

"He said, 'Coach, I don't do the low-post thing anymore,'" O'Brien recalled. "We just made a major trade to bring in this [6-foot-10] guy and he said, 'No.' I said, 'Yes, you do.'"

E-mails sent to Webber and his agent's office were not immediately returned.

Webber's unhappiness forced him to meet with O'Brien to express his grievances with his role. O'Brien was fired three weeks after the Sixers were eliminated by Detroit in the playoffs -- the organization's last playoff appearance -- and replaced by former Sixer Maurice Cheeks.

Cheeks is coaching the final year of a three-year contract.

"I just think it would have been a very difficult group to coach the following year, quite frankly," O'Brien said. "I'm just glad Maurice Cheeks had that opportunity instead of me."

Webber bounced back under Cheeks in 2005-06 with solid averages of 20.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 75 games. But he fell out of favor with Cheeks early last season, was benched in several fourth quarters and accepted a contract buyout in January.

He finished last season with Detroit.

O'Brien said he agreed at the time with then-team president Billy King's decision to acquire Webber.

"That move enabled us to make the playoffs," O'Brien said.

O'Brien, a Philadelphia native who played for Saint Joseph's, sat at home the last two years and collected the nearly $8 million owed to him by the Sixers. He is glad he earned another chance in Indiana.

"I was hoping I'd get another opportunity and I did," O'Brien said. "I've always been a Philadelphia fan. I hope they turn that franchise around."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press