DENVER - George Karl knows it's an unsavory part of his profession. But it's there. Coaches are fired and their teams move on.

But asked about Maurice Cheeks being gone from the 76ers' bench, the Denver Nuggets' coach said: "Disappointing. I don't understand this one. I mean, most of them I don't understand, but I don't understand why Mo's not coaching. I can't accept it. I don't want to accept it."

The 76ers were 9-14 when president/general manager Ed Stefanski made the decision to replace Cheeks with Tony DiLeo, senior vice president of basketball operations/assistant general manager.

"I've heard the reasoning," Karl said before the Sixers faced the Nuggets last night on the second leg of a six-game trip. "I like Eddie, I think he's a hell of a basketball guy, but I don't understand it. I don't want to understand it. I don't want to hear the bleep excuses.

"I know those are the guys who are probably going to hire me again, but where is the scorekeeper on GMs? Is there a scorekeeping process? They're like athletic directors in college. We make mistakes. Every game, coaches make mistakes. If you're 70-30 [on correct decisions], you're probably going to win by 15. If you're 60-40, you're going to win by five or six. At 50-50 is when you're losing, and you're going to get your butt kicked.

"The guy sitting next to the boss has a choice of saying the good or the bad. What do you think he's saying? What's human nature?"

Six shots

The Sixers were scheduled to practice today in Denver before leaving for Salt Lake City, where they will face Utah on Monday. They will visit the Los Angeles Clippers New Year's Eve, then complete their trip with games in Dallas on Jan. 2 and San Antonio on Jan. 3. *