Billy King spun Philadelphia's revolving door at coach again yesterday, pushing out Jim O'Brien after one season and bringing in Maurice...

Share story

PHILADELPHIA — Billy King spun Philadelphia’s revolving door at coach again yesterday, pushing out Jim O’Brien after one season and bringing in Maurice Cheeks, the popular former 76ers player and assistant coach, as O’Brien’s replacement.

Nearly three weeks after the Sixers ended their season, King decided to fire O’Brien, who still has two years and $8 million left on the contract he signed when he was hired by the 76ers on April 21, 2004.

Cheeks, who was fired March 2 as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, is the team’s fourth coach since King took over as the team’s president and general manager on May 26, 2003. That was the same day Larry Brown tendered his resignation from the 76ers after six seasons.

Cheeks helped guide the 76ers to an NBA championship in 1982-83. He will be introduced by the team today.

At a news conference last night at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, King said he had the support of Ed Snider, the chairman of Comcast-Spectacor, the team’s owner, for his latest moves even though the Sixers will be paying ex-coaches Randy Ayers ($2 million) and O’Brien along with Cheeks next season.

“In talking with Ed, we felt the main focus was that we want to make the right decisions and not let money be the factor,” King said. “We think we owe it to our fans and the city of Philadelphia to do that.”

Cheeks, 48, a four-time NBA All-Star while with the 76ers, was fired from the Blazers, his first head-coaching job, in the middle of his fourth season with the club. He led the team to a 162-139 record.

Cheeks was a second-round draft choice of the 76ers in 1978 and played for 11 seasons with the team.

“Mo is family,” King said. “Mo bleeds 76ers; he bleeds Philadelphia. One thing Mo says is, ‘I’m coming back, not as Maurice Cheeks the player, but I’m coming back to do the job as a coach and not hang my hat on what I did in the past.’ ”

King said he decided on Saturday to fire O’Brien, and then checked with Cheeks to see whether he’d be interested in the job. Cheeks said he would be, and King called him again yesterday and reached a deal after notifying O’Brien of his decision. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

When King hired O’Brien, he had called him a “perfect fit” for the job. O’Brien did lead the Sixers to a 43-39 record — a 10-win improvement over the previous season — and a playoff berth. He coached Allen Iverson to his fourth NBA scoring title.

Reached by phone yesterday, O’Brien declined to comment.

“I’m not going to have any discussion about this,” he said.