Blazers fire Cheeks
Portland, OR (Sports Network) – The Portland Trail Blazers have fired head
coach Maurice Cheeks.
Kevin Pritchard, Portland’s director of player personnel, will step into the
vacancy to guide the club on an interim basis.
“We made this change in order to evaluate the entire roster and to put the
franchise in the best position as we head towards the draft and free agency,”
said Trail Blazers general manager John Nash in a statement. “We appreciate
all of Maurice’s efforts during a difficult time and wish him well in the
Cheeks was under contract through the 2005-06 season, but the team is
struggling with a 22-33 record and sits six games out of a playoff spot. The
Blazers are in danger of missing the post-season for the second straight year
after a string of 21 straight playoff appearances was snapped last spring.
Portland was 41-41 last year and has not had a losing season since 1988-89
when the club last made an in-season coaching change. Rick Adelman replaced
Mike Schuler after 47 games and the Blazers went on to finish with a 39-43
Cheeks was named Portland’s 10th head coach on June 27, 2001 after seven years
as an assistant in Philadelphia. He had a record of 162-139 during his tenure
with the Blazers. The team reached the playoffs in each of Cheeks’ first two
seasons, but suffered first-round eliminations both times.
A four-time NBA All-Star in a distinguished 15-year playing career, Cheeks was
a second-round pick of the 76ers in the 1978 draft and spent 11 seasons with
Philadelphia. He was the starting point guard for the 1983 NBA champions.
Pritchard, in his first season with the Portland organization, has previously
coached in the fledgling ABA with the Kansas City Knights. The 37-year-old
starred at the University of Kansas and played briefly in the NBA with Golden
State, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami and Washington.
All of the current assistant coaches will remain with Pritchard, as the club
begins the search for a new full-time head coach.