Maurice Cheeks never really had to interview for Philadelphia's coaching vacancy.
His resume was in the rafters.
Take a look at the No. 10 jersey, retired on the strength of four all-star selections in 11 years as the consummate point guard. There's the 1983 NBA championship banner for the team he led to the last title for any of the city's four major pro teams. And there's the 2001 Eastern Conference championship banner for the team he gave his last assist to, providing steady guidance under Larry Brown.
Those are the marks of a winner, and it brings a jolt of credibility to a 76ers franchise more so-so than super the past few years.
"If they have any doubt, look up top and see No. 10 hanging and they'll know he's done something pretty good in the league," said team president Billy King. "They know he played, and he won a ring. You need somebody that can show you the way."
Cheeks -- that's Mo (as in Yo!) for short -- found his way back to his beloved Philadelphia after 31/2 years coaching Portland. Now, one of the most popular players in franchise history believes he can bring the 76ers back to the top of the NBA and raise another banner beside the '83 one that is collecting dust.
"I've always felt like Philadelphia was the place I would end up, the place I was going to be," Cheeks said. "I've always felt it."
And the title-starved city, which boasts some of the most critical fans around and has a championship drought as well known around town as its landmarks, always has loved Cheeks.
Philadelphia really is Mo's Town. A wave of nostalgia has swept the usually fickle faithful since Cheeks was hired to replace Jim O'Brien in May.
Fans call radio stations to report sightings of the new coach at a fast-food window. Two of the Sixers' seven planned promotional giveaways are centered on the unassuming Cheeks. A newspaper is giving away club box seats to the opener to the reader who best sums up how Cheeks's leadership will spark the team.
The Sixers even returned to the red and blue colors, circle of stars and serif script that marked the logo from 1963 to 1997 for a marketing campaign.
Everyone wants to remember the fantastic feelings from 1983, when Cheeks ended the clincher against the Los Angeles Lakers with a dunk and triumphantly raised his arms to celebrate as the final seconds ticked away. Cheeks laughs when he says that feel-good return will be tossed aside like yesterday's cheese steak if the Sixers don't win.
"Certainly when I got the Portland job, there wasn't as much hoopla as there is here," Cheeks said in his sparsely decorated office. "I've spent time here. I've lived here. I grew up basically here. There's going to be a little bit more hoopla than there would be someplace else."
After seven seasons as a Sixers assistant, Cheeks took his first head coaching job with Portland. He won 49 and 50 games his first two years, when he guided the team to the playoffs.
But Cheeks's tenure was hardly easy -- on or off the court -- thanks to a string of embarrassing brushes with the law that earned the team the nickname "Jail Blazers." He had verbal run-ins with Bonzi Wells and Darius Miles that were all part of a disastrous image problem that served as a constant cloud over the team.
"We had some good players, we had some good guys on the team, but some things kept happening time after time and that's all people talked about," Cheeks said. "The things that they did, the dysfunctional things that happened, a lot of that became a part of the Portland Trail Blazers, and that was unfortunate."
Even with 162 career wins and a .538 winning percentage when he was fired 45 games into last season, Cheeks was knocked as not being a great X's and O's coach and one who relied on his assistants too much to develop strategy. Cheeks simply shrugs off the criticism and points to two playoff appearances and no losing records in three full seasons.
Cheeks had an opportunity to return to Philadelphia when he was targeted by King after Brown quit in 2003. Portland, however, denied Cheeks permission to speak to the Sixers.
Instead, Randy Ayers was promoted from assistant to head coach -- and fired 52 games into his rookie season. Assistant Chris Ford took over on an interim basis and was not retained. Then O'Brien signed a three-year deal and was fired after one season.
Counting Brown, that's four different coaches to start the past four seasons.
When King went after Cheeks again in the spring, there was no formal interview, only a telephone conversation to ensure interest from each side. Cheeks's hiring was announced in the same release as O'Brien's firing.
"I'm hoping I'm here a long time," Cheeks said. "Stability can go a long way for players and teams. They know what to expect."
So far, the players love what they're getting. It was Camp Happy for a week of training camp in Durham, N.C., where each player seemed to want to outdo the other in proclaiming his giddiness over Cheeks's arrival.
After a wasted final 21/2 months last year, Chris Webber has his megawatt smile back and wants Cheeks to deliver the title missing in an otherwise stellar career. Allen Iverson says he hasn't been this excited about coming to practice -- practice! -- since college.
"I don't want to be any problem to him," Iverson said. "I just want to be somebody that, when he has a problem, he can come talk to me about it."
Cheeks was around for the daily Iverson-Brown tussles and knows that how his relationship with the franchise player goes, so go the Sixers.
Iverson joked he was so elated Cheeks was hired he wanted to kiss him on the mouth. The relationship will change now that Cheeks is calling the shots -- and calling fewer of them for A.I.
Cheeks already said he would like to see the former MVP shoot less, maybe even lead the league in assists, and says he wants to cut back on Iverson's minutes.
"We'll work out a way to make it work," Cheeks said.
Don't forget, Cheeks was able to make it work with Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Moses Malone for years and finished as the team's career leader in assists. While this year's roster isn't nearly as talented as the title team, Cheeks believes the current Sixers are not far off in their quest to revive those championship feelings.
"It was captivating," Cheeks said. "It was a long time ago and I can remember it like it was yesterday."