Cinnaminson boys' basketball coach Mike Fries had taken his seniors to Saturday's Tennessee-Temple game at the Liacouras Center when the text messages starting pouring in.

The word got out quickly that Cinnaminson alumnus Tony DiLeo had been named to replace Maurice Cheeks as the 76ers' interim head coach, creating quite a bit of excitement in the Burlington County town.

"Everyone in Cinnaminson is so proud of this," Fries said yesterday. "It's a big buzz around town right now."

Fries, a 1994 graduate of Cinnaminson, had taken his seniors to see DiLeo's son, T.J., now a freshman at Temple.

Last season, T.J. DiLeo was The Inquirer's South Jersey basketball player of the year, after averaging 23.9 points and six rebounds.

Fries is coaching T.J. DiLeo's younger brother Max, a sophomore reserve on the varsity.

Tony DiLeo, in his 19th season with the 76ers organization, remained in the background when he watched his son's games, Fries said.

"He is very quiet, and he would pull T.J. aside after a game or practice and talk to him and give him some advice on what he could do to improve," Fries said. "You wouldn't even know that Mr. DiLeo was in the NBA."

Fries was so excited that he attended Saturday's news conference and then the Sixers' game with Washington at the Wachovia Center.

"We're all so proud, excited and happy for him and I think he will do a fantastic job," Fries said.

Tony DiLeo long ago made his mark on the South Jersey basketball scene. South Jersey historian Chuck Langerman came up with a few interesting tidbits about his playing days.

As a senior at Cinnaminson during the 1972-73 season, DiLeo scored 465 points, averaging 18.6 points per game, Langerman said.

Cinnaminson went 18-7 that season and the Pirates were upset by Woodrow Wilson, 53-49, in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament.

Now DiLeo hopes to get into another tournament at year's end - the NBA playoffs. No matter how it turns out, one thing is for sure: He won't have a bigger rooting section than the one from his hometown of Cinnaminson.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225