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News » Cheeks will help steer ship

Cheeks will help steer ship

Cheeks will help steer ship
At first glance, newly named Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks might appear to be the heir apparent in the event Scott Brooks flames out in his first full run as head coach.

Cheeks owns a 284-286 record over the equivalent of about seven full seasons as the lead man in Portland and Philadelphia. He's guided his teams to the playoffs three times. He's one of the most mannerly men in coaching.

It's enough to make you believe Brooks should keep one eye on the court and the other cocked over his shoulder.

And we're not saying someday he shouldn't.

But Brooks has the full support of the Thunder's front office, and, for now, Cheeks should be viewed as a complement to Brooks rather than his eventual replacement. The Thunder rewarded Brooks with a lucrative two-year deal just before the end of last season. The contract has a team option that could keep Brooks, 44, in Oklahoma City through the 2011-12 season.

So, to be clear, there should be no questioning which man holds the keys to the ship and is calling the shots. Cheeks' arrival should only assist Brooks in driving the boat.

Bringing in a coach of Cheeks' stature, however, is a salute to Brooks' makeup. The Thunder's coach could have settled on someone with less experience who in no way would have been qualified to serve as a potential successor. But that coach would have had far less to offer.

The decision illustrates Brooks' self-confidence and his trust in Cheeks. That trust stems from a relationship first formed in 1987, when Brooks nearly made Cheeks' star-studded Sixers squad as a little-known guard out of UC-Irvine. Brooks made the team the next season and served as Cheeks' backup for one year.

Brooks knows he's a long way from mastering this coaching business, and by adding a coach like Cheeks, he's setting himself up to succeed. Cheeks will add much-needed experience to the Thunder's bench. He'll provide Brooks with a veteran set of eyes that can break down X's and O's and provide a valuable view in late-game situations. Cheeks will command the attention of the Thunder's young core because of his 15 years of NBA experience and his one NBA title in 1983.

Cheeks has a reputation of being a player's coach, a style that Brooks has quickly adopted. But with Cheeks now in the mix, Brooks has the option to be more of the bad cop that the head man has to be at times when it comes to the rotation and demanding more of players.

Cheeks also has a history of effectively communicating with players through his motivational tactics, positive attitude and philosophical approach. As a head coach he allowed players to play to their strengths instead of forcing them to adapt to his system. As an assistant he can be the outlet players lean on when things aren't going their way while offering meaningful words of encouragement in showing them how to turn things around.

Cheeks should prove to be a great fit in Oklahoma City. Surrounded by a coaching staff of Cheeks, fellow incoming assistant Rex Kalamian, defensive guru Ron Adams and returnees Mark Bryant and Brian Keefe, Brooks is in position to mature on the bench this season every bit as much as his players do on the court.

If Brooks does, he'll have no reason to look over his shoulder.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: August 20, 2009


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