In early November, before the 76ers' season was two weeks old, general manager Ed Stefanski stood on the practice floor at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and said he needed to see a "trend" before he would consider change.

At the time, the team he pieced together in his first off-season as general manager had stumbled to a 2-4 start.

"You have to see a pattern," Stefanski said then. "But after six games, there isn't a pattern yet. Maybe after 20 you could see a trend or a pattern."

Stefanski waited 23 games, during which the results varied little from those eyebrow-raising first two weeks.

Yesterday, Stefanski fired his head coach, Maurice Cheeks, only three months after extending his contract through the 2009-10 season, less than a season removed from a playoff appearance. The Sixers' record was 9-14.

Cheeks, who helped the Sixers win the NBA title as a player, ends his three-plus-year tenure as coach with a 122-147 record.

Stefanski replaced Cheeks by appointing Tony DiLeo as interim coach. DiLeo had been in the Sixers' front office since 1990, most recently as senior vice president and assistant general manager. The Sixers beat the Washington Wizards, 104-89, in DiLeo's debut.

"We're in a result-oriented business," Stefanski said at the Wachovia Center before last night's game. "Our report card is in the paper every day. I don't think the progression we were making is what we wanted. I thought a change in voice and in direction was what we needed."

Stefanski said the need for a change came to him over the last 10 games, and he was more convinced after Wednesday's home loss to Cleveland. Friday's loss at Cleveland was the third in a row and eighth in a 10-game span.

"Mo did everything he could possibly think to do," Stefanski said. "It just didn't happen. That's why we're trying to change the voice and the direction.

"Everyone will say he's the scapegoat, and we're pointing the finger at him. I told him this morning, that's not my game plan to do that at all. We talked about when the holidays are over and the dust settles, Mo and I are going to talk about a position in the organization. If he wants to stay in the organization, he's a Sixer for life, Mo Cheeks. No doubt about it."

Cheeks could not be reached for comment.

Cheeks' first head-coaching job was with Portland, but he had a long history with the Sixers, some celebratory and some controversial. As a player, he helped the team win the NBA title in 1982-83. As the head coach, he and Allen Iverson got along at first, but the relationship soured, leading to Iverson's trade to Denver in December 2006.

The Sixers said DiLeo would coach on an interim basis through the remainder of this season. DiLeo has been with the organization for 19 years. Before that, he spent 10 years as a player and coach in Germany.

DiLeo grew up in Cinnaminson in Burlington County. After starting at Tennessee Tech, he played at and graduated from La Salle, so his Philadelphia-Big Five roots run deep. His son plays at Temple.

DiLeo joins a long list of Philadelphia-area coaches who have led NBA teams, including Jimmy Lynam (a Sixers assistant), Jack Ramsay, Jack McKinney, Paul Westhead, Dick Harter, Chuck Daly, Don Casey, Matt Guokas Jr. and current Pacers coach Jim O'Brien.

DiLeo takes over a team that he helped Stefanski construct.

In early July, when Stefanski made waves by signing power forward Elton Brand, a midseason firing and last place did not seem this team's destiny. Instead, there was talk of legitimate contention in the Eastern Conference and, at worst, a playoff berth.

Like side dishes to Brand's main course, Stefanski filled the table with small pickups like guards Kareem Rush and Royal Ivey, forward Donyell Marshall and center Theo Ratliff. Stefanski also re-signed free-agent guards Lou Williams and Andre Iguodala, paying the latter $80 million.

DiLeo knows his relationship with the players will change.

"I think I have the advantage, knowing them from high school or college, from talking to them before and after practice," DiLeo said before last night's game. "Our relationship will be different. It will be a coach/player relationship. As a coach, you have to hold players accountable, that they execute offensively or defensively, and do what you want to do on the court."

Maurice Cheeks' NBA career

Head-Coaching Statistics

Season   Team   Win   Loss   Pct.

01-02   Trail Blazers   49   33   .598

02-03   Trail Blazers   50   32   .610

03-04   Trail Blazers   41   41   .500

04-05   Trail Blazers   22   33   .400

05-06   76ers   38   44   .463

06-07   76ers   35   47   .427

07-08   76ers   40   42   .488

08-09   76ers   9   14   .391

Career      284   286   .498   

Player Statistics

Regular season

Year Team   G   FG%   3P%   FT%   Reb.   Assist   Steal   TO   PPG

78-79 76ers   82   .510   .000   .721   3.1   5.3   2.1   2.35   8.4

79-80 76ers   79   .540   .444   .779   3.5   7.0   2.3   2.73   11.4

80-81 76ers   81   .534   .375   .787   3.0   6.9   2.4   2.15   9.4

81-82 76ers   79   .521   .273   .777   3.1   8.4   2.6   2.33   11.2

82-83 76ers   79   .542   .167   .754   2.6   6.9   2.3   2.27   12.5

83-84 76ers   75   .550   .400   .733   2.7   6.4   2.3   2.43   12.7

84-85 76ers   78   .570   .231   .879   2.8   6.4   2.2   1.99   13.1

85-86 76ers   82   .537   .235   .842   2.9   9.2   2.5   2.90   15.4

86-87 76ers   68   .527   .235   .777   3.2   7.9   2.6   2.54   15.6

87-88 76ers   79   .495   .136   .825   3.2   8.0   2.1   2.03   13.7

88-89 76ers   71   .483   .077   .774   2.6   7.8   1.5   1.63   11.6

89-90 Spurs   50   .478   .111   .832   3.3   6.0   1.6   1.70   10.9

89-90 Knicks   31   .579   .429   .877   2.4   4.9   1.4   1.16   7.9

90-91 Knicks   76   .499   .250   .814   2.3   5.7   1.7   1.42   7.8

91-92 Hawks   56   .462   .500   .605   1.7   3.3   1.5   0.64   4.6

92-93 Nets   35   .548   .000   .889   1.2   3.1   0.9   0.94   3.6

Career    1101   .523   .255   .793   2.8   6.7   2.1   2.06   11.1   

Playoffs

Year Team   G   FG%   3P%   FT%   Reb.   Assist   Steal   TO   PPG

78-79 76ers   9   .545   .000   .661   3.9   7.0   4.1   3.22   18.8

79-80 76ers   18   .511   .200   .707   4.1   6.2   2.5   2.50   11.6

80-81 76ers   16   .544   .000   .762   3.2   7.3   2.5   2.25   10.5

81-82 76ers   21   .472   .111   .769   3.0   8.2   2.3   2.33   14.3

82-83 76ers   13   .503   .500   .703   3.0   7.0   2.0   2.62   16.3

83-84 76ers   5   .522   .000   .867   2.4   3.8   2.6   2.00   16.6

84-85 76ers   13   .529   .000   .857   3.5   5.2   2.4   2.62   15.2

85-86 76ers   12   .516   .000   .849   4.7   7.1   1.1   2.67   20.8

86-87 76ers   5   .530   .000   .857   2.6   8.8   1.8   2.40   17.6

88-89 76ers   3   .512   .000   .846   3.7   13.0   2.3   1.00   17.7

90-91 Knicks   3   .609   .333   .500   3.0   5.3   1.0   2.67   10.0

92-93 Nets   5   .478   .000   .000   1.2   2.8   1.2   1.40   4.4

Career    133   .512   .098   .777   3.4   6.9   2.2   2.39   14.4   

EndText

Staff writer Phil Sheridan contributed to this report. Contact staff writer Kate Fagan at 856-779-3844 or kfagan@phillynews.com.