News » Bob Ford: 76ers: Yawn of a new era

Bob Ford: 76ers: Yawn of a new era

Bob Ford: 76ers: Yawn of a new era
The only surprising part of the 76ers' exhaustive and exhausting search for a head coach is that there hasn't been a single surprise yet, least of all that Jay Wright would prefer the cozy nest of Villanova to the dodging of freeway traffic that comes with coaching in the NBA.

General manager Ed Stefanski said he was performing "due diligence," which is sports executive speak for "I'm taking my time because if I mess this up nobody gets out alive, including me."

There is really no clock ticking, unless Eddie Jordan is the guy Stefanski really wants and the Sacramento Kings, also searching for a coach, feel the same way. The Kings were a lot more attractive before falling out of the top draft spot in the lottery, and, on balance, the Sixers are a better opportunity, if that tells you anything.

If Stefanski has a silent agreement with Jordan to sit tight until he completes the ritual of courtesy and information-gathering interviews, that might explain why nothing has happened yet. Or it might be that Jordan is not the guy.

Either way, Stefanski isn't saying much, and there is no track record of his management style to judge which way he's going to jump. The new coach, according to Stefanski, will have good communication skills, the leadership ability to be a disciplinarian without losing the locker room, a good understanding of X-and-O tactics, and, let's see, something else. Maybe good table manners.

It is a nice checklist, and the five remaining candidates interviewed so far have all been around the game long enough to know what Stefanski is looking for. Providing it is another matter, and Jordan, for instance, never got the Wizards out of their .500 prison despite taking them to four straight postseasons.

Dwane Casey had the misfortune to coach the Timberwolves when Latrell Sprewell bailed, Sam Cassell was traded, and Kevin Garnett grumped his way out of town. He could be a great coach, but no one really knows.

Kurt Rambis had a cup of coffee with the Lakers during the lockout year and stepped aside when the team lured Phil Jackson from his mountaintop. No clue there.

Tom Thibodeau, if he were a football coach, would be a lifelong defensive coordinator. That's been his calling card during 19 years as an NBA assistant, including two in Philadelphia under John Lucas. In his second season with Lucas, the Sixers were 18-64 and very nearly the worst defensive team in the league, but there were also 24 guys on the roster that year, and their only uniting characteristic was that none of them had much interest in playing defense.

Chris Ford, who is something of a local favorite, has the longest head-coaching resum?. He coached all or part of 10 seasons in the NBA, with the Celtics, Bucks, Clippers, and briefly the 76ers . In the last seven of those seasons, his teams finished under .500. Ford's interim stint with the Sixers at the end of the unfortunate Randy Ayers experiment was notable in that he was determined to hold Allen Iverson as accountable as the rest of the roster. That didn't work out so well. Iverson quit on him, and the team was still in the enabling phase of its relationship with the little guy. So much for Chris Ford as coach.

Barring late additions or secret meetings, there are your coaching candidates. Got a winner yet?

Wright and Stefanski had what was described as a "lively conversation" about the potential and direction of the Sixers . Any conversation about Basketball with Stefanski is lively, and he pulled off a win-win by meeting with Wright, even if he knew that prying away the Villanova coach after a Final Four season, and with a huge recruiting class coming in, would be as difficult as teaching Samuel Dalembert pick-and-roll defense.

There was the chance Wright would be interested, and, failing that, Stefanski would have the chance to pick the brain of one of the better Basketball minds in town. We'll never know what Wright said about the mismatched roster that cost Maurice Cheeks his job and led Tony DiLeo to give a thanks-no-thanks about keeping the position.

We do know that Wright neatly removed his name from consideration before the news of the meeting could leak out. He's in a good spot right now and in no hurry to jump at a short-term payday in a league where the recruiting mistakes never graduate. Maybe someday, but not yet, and certainly not with this team.

Any of the above candidates could end up having great success with the Sixers , but having it with these Sixers is a difficult proposition. There isn't a true star on the roster, and that is the only way to win consistently and win big in the NBA. No matter how much you hustle, how hard you play, and how selfless your approach is - all worthy attributes that describe the Sixers - the way to success is getting great talent that plays to its level, not getting good talent that must play above it. That part they're still working on.

So it's no shock that the candidate list is as middle of the road as the team.

It might work out just fine, and the team will improve very quickly, but that would definitely qualify as the first surprise of the process.

Contact columnist Bob Ford

at 215-854-5842 or

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: May 25, 2009


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