PHILADELPHIA (AP) -Maurice Cheeks and the 76ers agreed to a contract extension Wednesday, giving the former NBA star more time to reach the postseason for the first time as Philadelphia's coach.
``Coach Cheeks has done a very good job of installing an up-tempo brand of basketball that puts this team in a position to succeed on a nightly basis and we are excited about the future under his direction, Sixers president Ed Stefanski said.
The Sixers have not reached the playoffs in Cheeks' first two full seasons and they entered Wednesday night's game against New York holding the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference.
Cheeks, in the final season of a three-year deal, is 96-122 with the Sixers.
A four-time All-Star point guard during 15 seasons in the NBA, Cheeks was a fan favorite on Philly teams that also included Julius ``Dr. J'' Erving and Moses Malone. Cheeks helped lead the Sixers to the NBA title in 1983, the last time any of Philadelphia's four major pro teams won a championship.
Cheeks was an assistant under three coaches from 1994-2001, and was part of Larry Brown's staff when the Sixers went to the NBA finals in 2001.
He was hired as coach by former team president Billy King in 2005 and inherited a playoff team that was expected to contend again in the East. The franchise was hopeful the bond Cheeks developed as an assistant with former MVP Allen Iverson would soothe the mercurial star. Iverson even joked he was so elated Cheeks was hired he wanted to kiss him on the mouth.
Instead, their relationship soured and Iverson's pairing with Chris Webber fizzled. Once the Sixers traded Iverson and cut ties with Webber last season, the Sixers decided to rebuild. With Brown lurking in the front office, Cheeks was never sure he would get to see the rebuilding effort come to fruition.
The mild-mannered Cheeks is popular with his players and they always play hard for him, perhaps the biggest reason the Sixers are even in the mix for a playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.
Cheeks always remains steady and optimistic, never publicly scolds his young team and tells them to ignore chatter from fans who want lottery picks instead of an eighth seed. The Sixers responded with a season-high five straight wins until the streak was snapped in a 104-88 loss at Minnesota on Tuesday night.
Cheeks was fired in 2005 after nearly four seasons as coach of the Trail Blazers. He had a 162-139 record in Portland, the fourth-highest win total in Blazers history.
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