76ers go on offensive, hiring ex-Nugget Moe as coach

May 27, 1992|By Bob Ford | Bob Ford,Knight-Ridder

PHILADELPHIA -- Doug Moe, a garrulous veteran whose basketball teams play with three things in mind -- offense, offense, and oh, yes, offense -- was to become coach of the Philadelphia 76ers today, replacing Jim Lynam, who will move up to the general manager's office.

The moves are part of a fascinating Sixers upheaval in which no one gets fired.

Lynam, the 76ers coach for four years, takes over the GM job Gene Shue held for the last two seasons. Shue is expected to stay with the Sixers in a player-personnel capacity, at least for the short term. Fred Carter will keep his job as assistant coach.

Sources in Denver and Philadelphia confirmed the changes. Moe flew into Philadelphia last night and was to be introduced today at a news conference.

Though owner Harold Katz would not reveal the nature of the news conference, he touted it with customary flourish.

"It will be the start of something new for us," Katz said. "What you'll see will be perfect for us. It will be something we'll be able to build on and regroup."

Regrouping would certainly be in order for a 76ers team that finished this season with its worst record (35-47) in 17 years. They were not good enough to make the playoffs despite the presence of superstar forward Charles Barkley.

Moe, 53, coached 14 seasons in the NBA before being fired by the Denver Nuggets in 1990. He has since suffered physical ailments that threatened to keep him from coaching again.

But surgery this year cleared the way for Moe, an innovative, offense-oriented coach, to return to the bench.

Katz, according to those who know him well, has always had an affection for the exciting style of play that Moe brought to his teams.

Moe's teams compiled a record of 609-492. Only 11 coaches in NBA history have achieved 600 wins.

Lynam had coached the Sixers since February 1988, taking over in midseason for Matt Guokas. Under Lynam, the Sixers won the Atlantic Division title in 1989-90, but have slipped in the last two seasons.

Poor drafts, poor trades and ill-advised free-agent signings have left the Sixers with a team that struggled to compete every night.

Lynam, who is well-liked and respected by the players, is a popular figure in Philadelphia. It will be interesting to see if his "promotion" suits him.

Sources close to the team indicated that Katz believed Lynam was too much of a "nice guy" with the players, not enough of a disciplinarian, particularly in the case of Barkley.

Barkley said recently that he wouldn't play in Philadelphia next season if Lynam did not return as coach. If serious, Barkley would have to forfeit $3.5 million in salary.

More likely, if Barkley is not in Philadelphia, it will not be of his own choosing. According to NBA sources, the Sixers are actively seeking to trade Barkley during the offseason.

Moe's teams run a "motion offense" that is predicated on constant ball movement. Barkley's game, slow and methodical, is the antithesis of Moe's style.

The future of Shue with the organization is not well defined. Shue, a Baltimore native and former coach of the Washington Bullets, has been the general manager since replacing now-Bullets GM John Nash in 1990. He has maintained a residence in California, however, and recent rumors indicated that Shue would prefer to return to California if a job there presented itself.

Moe is the third coach hired since Katz bought the Sixers in 1981. He inherited the successful Billy Cunningham -- who attended the same high school (Erasmus in Brooklyn, N.Y.) and college (North Carolina) as Moe did -- and hired Guokas in 1986 and Lynam in 1988.

Lynam is the third general manager hired by Katz. Katz inherited Pat Williams from previous owner Fitz Dixon, hired Nash in 1986, and Shue in 1990.

Cunningham said last night that he had not been in recent contact with Moe, but believed that Moe "had the itch to coach again."

Moe went through two serious bouts of pancreatitis in 1991, a condition that would make the rigor of traveling extremely hazardous. But a gall-bladder operation earlier this year ended Moe's pancreatic problems and he was cleared to return to coaching.

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