It’s time the Philadelphia 76ers give Aaron McKie a run

(The Sixers Sense)

The 76ers would be foolish not to consider Aaron McKie for the head coaching job.

For five seasons, Aaron McKie has been an assistant on the Philadelphia 76ers coaching staff. He has survived the coaching tenures of Maurice Cheeks, Tony DiLeo, Eddie Jordan and now Doug Collins. McKie has made it from the streets of North Philadelphia to the NBA with determination and hard work.

It’s time the 76ers ownership acknowledges this as well.

Aaron McKie is a by-product of tough love. Coached by Hall of Fame coaches John Chaney and Larry Brown, McKie is an astute student of the game of life. In three years under Chaney at Temple, McKie scored 1,650 points (6th in school history) and received several honors, including Atlantic 10 Player of the Year in 1993. Playing for John Chaney McKie and others majored in discipline. Chaney took boys and gave them the necessary weaponry to embark on life’s battlefield. McKie took Chaney’s lessons to heart. Upon leaving Temple, McKie was equipped with a workman’s mentality and a professional approach to the game. On the court, McKie survived disappointing stints in Portland and Detroit before joining his hometown team.

With the 76ers, McKie was the 2001 Sixth Man of the Year — they also had the NBA’s MVP in Allen Iverson and Coach of the Year in Larry Brown.

Larry Brown took role players like McKie and placed them around the team’s lone star in Iverson. Brown’s coaching job with the 76ers in 2001 was reminiscent of his job in the NCAA’s with the Kansas Jayhawks and Danny Manning in 1988 — sans a championship.

McKie has been though the highs and lows of an NBA life — collecting enough knowledge from Chaney and Brown to successfully run a young NBA team. Aaron McKie’s route to the bench is no different than Monty Williams in New Orleans, Indiana’s Frank Vogel or Miami’s Erik Spoelstra. Spoelstra and Vogel (a former 76ers assistant) have no prior NBA experience. These are young coaches who have garnered experience as assistants/scouts and were given the opportunity to take the next step. Spoelstra has a world championship, Vogel has one of the best young teams in the league as does Williams.

The glaring difference in Indiana, Miami and New Orleans is the depth of talent compared to what the 76ers have in place. The silver lining in the Andrew Bynum deal is the 76ers will more than likely not lock themselves in with the star-crossed center. But the ripple effect to the franchise could linger for sometime if bad decisions are made this off-season.

The Sixers are expected to be about $14 million below the projected 2013-14 salary cap if they allow Bynum ($16.5 million), Nick Young ($6 million), Dorell Wright ($4.1 million), Royal Ivey ($1.2 million) and Damien Wilkins ($1.2 million) to leave on June 30. Had they not inexplicably handed journeyman center Kwame Brown a $3 million player option for next season, the figure would be $17 million.

The finances are in place for this team to get back into the playoff picture. It all depends on the basketball minds in this organization.

The trade for Andrew Bynum was really about moving embattled forward Andre Iguodala at any cost. The trade was a grim reminder of the Moses Malone trade to the Washington Bullets for a near crippled Jeff Ruland in 1986. In the 1986-87 season, Ruland played in a grand total of five games.

Bynum barely made it off the trainer’s table.

Even after stepping down, Doug Collins refused to believe his players tuned him out.

The Sixers are already feeling the effects of the trade. We laughed at the Orlando Magic for taking draft picks and young players. Guess who’s laughing as the winners in this deal? The Magic were handed a gem in second year center Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic was selected by Philadelphia No. 16 overall in last year’s draft and filled in nicely for an injured Spencer Hawes. As the season wore on, Vucevic slid further and further down the Sixers bench until he was out of sight. Inexplicably. Collins never summoned Vucevic during last year’s second round meeting with the Boston Celtics.

Vucevic finished second in the league in rebounding — averaging 11.9 per game this season in Orlando.

Sixers owners Adam Aron, Joshua Harris and others have placed an emphasis on brewing up nostalgia upon their purchase of the team. Aron has made himself accessible to fans at games and via social media, but like his team, he disappeared as the losses piled up.

Hiring Collins, going back to the 1980’s logo and having “turn back the clock promotions”. What followed has been a witch’s brew of questionable draft picks and free agent signings — culminating with a trade which reeked of nostalgia for all the wrong reasons.

The Sixers have tried the big name coach in Collins and the obscure in Eddie Jordan. The 76ers brass is drawing side glances from the fan base with names like Mike Malone and Jeff Hornacek (another player the Sixers had to have instead of their superstar) emerging as front runners for the head coaching job.

It’s time to ditch the diggin’ in the crates philosophy and make an effort to catch up with the rest of the league. Aaron McKie gives the Sixers a strong voice capable of relating to today’s players. For those who remember, it was McKie who served as the liaison between Brown and Allen Iverson. Doug Collins was too far removed from the game for a team this young. This is the same Doug Collins who toyed with the career of a young Allan Houston when he was coach of the Detroit Pistons. Being an in-game analyst is nothing compared to being hands on with the players.

Jettisoning leaders like Andre Miller and Elton Brand extinguished the professional vibe in the locker room — which ultimately played out on the floor. Bringing in McKie is a good start. He has the respect of the players, is considered a pro’s pro and is a familiar face to management.

I know the 76ers will probably go another way. They’ll make a move believing they’re changing the culture of basketball and are only outsmarting themselves in the end.

It’s the same soup reheated.




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