Ed Stefanski Has Tough Decisions Ahead

Victor FiloromoCorrespondent IMay 13, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - APRIL 30:  Andre Miller #7 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to the bench against the Orlando Magic during Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Wachovia Center on April 30, 2009 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

When you lose a Game Six on your home court by 25 points, changes are bound to be made. The Orlando Magic did a heck of a job of leaving a sour taste in the mouths of 'Sixers fans, players, and personnel.

They did it without Dwight Howard and Courtney Lee, getting contributions from their other starters and the bench. Meanwhile, Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Ed Stefanski could only watch on in disappointment.

How could this happen? Despite the 'Sixers losing Game Five, the Magic had just lost Howard to a one-game suspension and Lee to injury for Game Six. It was theirs for the taking. Instead, the effort realistically could be described in one word only: pathetic.

Now, Stefanski embarks into an offseason where questions need to be answered. There is a solid core of youth that will remain intact.

Thaddeus Young, Lou Williams, and Marreese Speights would all appear to have bright futures ahead.

Meanwhile, Andre Iguodala will now have to assume the role of veteran leader. If Elton Brand can get through a full season for the first time in three years, it will lift a bit of burden off Stefanski's shoulders. 

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However, there are plenty of puzzle pieces that need to be placed properly. At many times this season, it felt the 'Sixers were trying to fit square pegs into round holes. After a 9-14 start, Maurice Cheeks was relieved of his coaching duties.

Tony DiLeo, who was Senior Vice President and Assistant General Manager at the time, assumed the role of head coach.

DiLeo went 32-27 to finish out the regular season as the 'Sixers finished 41-41. Winning two games in the playoffs against Orlando was possibly more than expected, but the finish in Game Six was less than desirable. In the end, DiLeo was a good foot soldier for Stefanski.

He did everything he could given the situation, and will now return to where he should be in the front office.

The door now opens for Stefanski to put his imprint on the way he wants things run. Cheeks was here when Stefanski was first hired. Now he can bring his own man in.

The options are on the table: Doug Collins, Avery Johnson, and Eddie Jordan would appear to be the front-runners for the job. Jordan is already scheduled for an interview on Friday.

If Stefanski hires Jordan, it would be a major disappointment. They go back to their days in New Jersey, when Stefanski worked under General Manager Rod Thorn. At the time, Jordan was an assistant coach with the Nets.

For his career, Jordan is 230-288. He saw his Washington teams ousted three straight years in the first round, and was fired early this year after a 1-10 start. Jordan is the exact opposite of what Stefanski should be looking for.

Johnson and Collins have at least proven they can win. Johnson would be a good choice for the 76ers. He's young, energetic and most importantly, a winner. He boasts a .735 career winning percentage and reached the NBA Finals with the Dallas Mavericks in 2006.

Besides hiring a new coach, Stefanski must also figure out what he will do with free agent point guard Andre Miller.

This season, Miller averaged 16.5 points per game and 6.5 assists per game. When the playoffs came around, Miller did more of the scoring.

He made just shy of $10 million this season. The 'Sixers can't afford to give a lengthy contract to a 33-year-old Miller. They are better off moving on with Louis Williams as their point guard, or better yet, finding one in the draft.

It has long been rumored that the Portland Trailblazers have been looking at Miller. It makes sense. They're a young team that needs a point guard. The 'Sixers are a young team as well, but simply don't have the cap space to sign Miller long term.

The 'Sixers would love to get rid of Samuel Dalembert, but it's hard to imagine any takers for him.

The center's contract has become an albatross, as Dalembert was at times outplayed by 36-year-old backup Theo Ratliff.

Dalembert has two years left on his deal, which will pay him a total of over $23.5 million. Former General Manager Billy King never should have given Dalembert the six-year deal, but that's another story for another day.

Dalembert's play has regressed since he signed the deal, and some common sense could have prevented the 'Sixers from dishing out money to an unproven commodity.

Above all, the 76ers need to find a way to put people back in the seats. They were 23rd in attendance this season.

They should know that mediocrity will not bring anyone out. In this town, respect has to be earned. Winning cures everything.

Ed Stefanski knows that. Now, it's his call on what direction this team will go.


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