Cheeks takes blame for 76ers' start

12/16/2008 - NBA Philadelphia 76ers

PHILADELPHIA -- Sitting in front of a Philadelphia 76ers banner and behind a 76ers microphone, fired head coach Maurice Cheeks took the blame.

Three days after the team replaced him, Cheeks met with reporters on Tuesday to thank the fans and take responsibility for the poor start of a team with playoff aspirations.

Sometimes, Cheeks said, it can be the coach's fault a team does not perform as expected.

"In my case, it was the coach," he said.

Team president Ed Stefanski fired Cheeks on Saturday after the Sixers stumbled to a 9-14 start.

Last season, Cheeks and Stefanski orchestrated a remarkable midseason turnaround that helped the 76ers recover from an 18-30 start to make the playoffs. In the offseason, they acquired star power forward Elton Brand and appeared ready to contend in the Eastern Conference.

But the team struggled early and had lost eight of 10 before Stefanski fired Cheeks and replaced him with assistant general manager Tony DiLeo.

"Things don't always work out the way you expect them to," Cheeks said. "I take solace in the fact I did the best I could."

Cheeks said his affection for the fans and the franchise -- where he played 11 seasons -- prompted him to agree to a news conference at the 76ers home arena.

"I think it would have been selfish for me to just pick up and leave and go and not show my appreciation to the people that have supported me," he said. "I pretty much grew up in this town."

Cheeks carefully rearranged the tape recorders in front of him as he spoke and joked with reporters, telling them he wanted to thank a lot of people without having to run up his cell phone bill.

He refused to place blame for the team's poor performance on anyone but himself.

"Sometimes being fired is one of the things that entails being a head coach," he said.

Cheeks said he would be open to another position with the team, where he was a star point guard on the Sixers' last championship team in 1983, although he has not been approached about a job.

"I've been a part of this town a long time and I don't plan on going anywhere," he said. "If the opportunity is there for me to be in the organization, I'm more than happy to do that."

A four-time All-Star, Cheeks spent 15 seasons in the NBA before retiring in 1993. The 76ers retired his jersey in 1995.

Cheeks was a member of the coaching staff when the 76ers went to the Finals in 2001 and, after a head coaching stint in Portland, was named the 76ers head coach in 2005. He finished with a 122-152 record in Philadelphia.

The 76ers beat Washington 104-89 on Saturday in their first game under DiLeo. Philadelphia hosts Milwaukee on Wednesday.