It's a coincidence. Really.

But it's a weird little fact: The last three coaches Theo Ratliff has played for have all been let go.

That would be the Minnesota Timberwolves' Randy Wittman, the Detroit Pistons' Flip Saunders and the 76ers' Maurice Cheeks.

"I'm not the one," Ratliff said, laughing after the Sixers' second full practice under new coach Tony DiLeo.

But Ratliff, who has been in the NBA since 1996, knows the drill.

"Every team I've been on, when you change coaches guys try to pick it up, because they don't want [anyone] to say it's them," Ratliff said. "That's always the obvious thing."

Whether that approach lasts is another issue.

"You would hope it does; you want it to last," the veteran center said. "It all depends on the guy you bring in. If he demands it and continues to push for it, then things can continue to get better."

What about right here, right now?

"[DiLeo] is emphasizing the smaller things that I've been talking about, setting screens, waiting for screens [to develop], playing defense," he said. "He's really been adamant about guys being in their right spots."

DiLeo, who made his debut in last Saturday night's 104-89 victory over the Washington Wizards, has stressed ball and people movement, creating fastbreaks via consistent defense, trying to score in early offense before having to use a halfcourt set.

"It's not too far from the things we're kind of used to," Sixers starting center Samuel Dalembert said. "He didn't come in and change everything completely."

DiLeo is Dalembert's sixth coach. He, too, has been through this before.

"You try to make a first impression," he said. '"Players want to show [the new coach] what they can do."

Dalembert referenced last season, when the change came in the front office, with Ed Stefanski succeeding Billy King as the president/general manager.

"Things kind of switched for us, and lasted the rest of the season," he said. "Hopefully, that's the same case here. My concern is [making] this a building point, where you don't have to rebuild, adjust every year, where you know what to expect every year."

Did somebody mention defense?

That would be Andre Iguodala, who said a key was to "play defense a little better. Not a little better, a whole lot better. Have some pride on defense."

"I think Tony hits it on the head when he says we've got to stay focused for 48 minutes," Iguodala added. "We have mental lapses . . . [we get] kind of careless. Not careless, but we don't realize how important it is."

Six shots

Samuel Dalembert

had the fourth finger on his right hand taped after jamming it during Monday's practice, but will be available tonight against Milwaukee. "I heard a little click [when it happened] and I got scared," he said. X-rays, though, were negative . . . The Bucks ended a six-game road losing streak Monday with a 98-83 victory in Miami. The Sixers' victory over the Wizards ended a five-game home losing streak. *