Mo Cheeks' love hangover

The Sixers' Dear John to ex-coach Maurice Cheeks appears to have left him with no hard feelings. "The way I feel about the city, the way I feel about the organization is second to none."
The Sixers' Dear John to ex-coach Maurice Cheeks appears to have left him with no hard feelings. "The way I feel about the city, the way I feel about the organization is second to none."
Posted: December 17, 2008

Ever had your heart broken? Agonizing stuff. Half the time, you watch bad movies with the shades drawn while wondering what went wrong. The other half you spend hoping that, if you hang in there long enough and stay in touch, your ex will have a sudden epiphany and take you back. Eventually, your friends step in and give you a good talking to and help you move on.

Right now, Mo Cheeks could use some pals like that - a support group to shake him out of the fog he's in. Yesterday - three days after the 76ers told him to empty out his sock drawer and hit the curb - Cheeks sat in front of the Sixers logo in the Hall of Fame Room at the Wachovia Center. He said he was thankful for the opportunity he'd been given, and more than once professed his love for the city. Perfectly natural.

But when Cheeks was pressed about the firing - when asked whether he was given ample time to develop a team that has some key new faces - he sidestepped the issue. He didn't take a shot at president and general manager Ed Stefanski for cutting him loose after saddling him with underproductive personnel. Nor did Cheeks blast away at the franchise for turning its back on him despite the long history together. Instead, he remained loyal to the last.

"Things don't always work out the way you'd like them to," he said. "Again, I can't express my appreciation as much as I'd like. Deep down inside, it's there. No one understands, once you get fired, once you get let go, the feelings that are inside you. It's not an easy thing to deal with. The way I feel about the city, the way I feel about the organization is second to none. I'm here. If the opportunity is there for me to be in the organization, I'm more than happy to do that."

More than once, Cheeks was asked whether he might pursue other coaching opportunities, but his answers were all the same. He wants to be with the Sixers, even though the Sixers don't want to be with him.

There's nothing more tragic than unrequited love. How unfair - right, Mo?

"A lot of things in this world just aren't fair," Cheeks said.

He was sitting there in a gray jacket and a black turtleneck. He looked a bit down, but it was clear he wasn't in the mood to talk about it. The scene had all the melancholy undertones of every country-western tune you've ever heard. Call it "My Lover Left Me for a Man Named Tony."

Meanwhile, the divorce has gotten the Sixers the most publicity they've received all season. All they have to do in order to remain relevant is fire Cheeks once a week. Then they'll be set.

Sadly, if they asked him to do that, he might go for it.

I'd like to preface this by stating that I never set out to write about Howard Eskin. It's not something I relish or plan. I swear. These things just sort of happen.

To wit: After the Birds beat the Browns on Monday night, Eskin padded around the postgame interview session wearing an Eagles jacket. It was an odd event. Generally, members of the media don't wear team paraphernalia at the stadiums. I seem to remember Los Angeles Times columnist T.J. Simers doing it once to get a rise out of some players there, but from what I recall that was part of his choreographed shtick.

In Eskin's defense, it was pouring rain that night, so maybe he had to borrow the gear to stay dry. But as one fellow journo said to me, when that happens to another media member "we put on a raincoat - or we get wet."

Let's be clear: As someone who grew up here and who's rooted for these teams my whole life, I honestly don't have a problem with Eskin backing the Birds. And I don't think advocacy necessarily diminishes objectivity. I like when the local squads win, too. But that doesn't mean I'm about to put on a costume and head off to the postgame press conference, either. It was a simply strange sartorial decision.

Anyway, if you've chosen that route, at least give it a full effort. Maybe Die Hard would lend Eskin his personalized jersey.

Extremeskins.com - a Redskins fan site - is trying to convince frustrated Washington supporters to boycott Sunday's game. . . . Joe Paterno, who is about to turn 82, got a three-year extension? Jamie Moyer got low-balled. . . . Remember when, as a member of the Dodgers, Chan Ho Park charged the mound and unleashed a flying karate kick on Angels pitcher Tim Belcher? I would absolutely pay money to see Park pull that move on Johan Santana.


Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813 or gonzalez@phillynews.com.

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