NEW YORK — The 76ers had little choice Monday but to cut Jim O’Brien loose (with $8 million guaranteed and two years left on his contract; the team owned an option for a third) in favor of Maurice Cheeks.

Too many factors weighed against the Philadelphia native who played college ball at St. Joseph’s under Jack Ramsay who later became his father-in-law.

Since the end of the 43-39 season, in which the Sixers were eliminated in five games by the Pistons, rising free agents Samuel Dalembert and Willie Green let it be known they weren’t coming back under the same coach.

This was after O’Brien stubbornly refused to adjust to his original players, particularly to the two above youngsters, preferring to adhere to his system instead.

Kenny Thomas, Brian Skinner and Corliss Williamson, misfits in that system, felt like they had been pardoned from prison when they were traded to the Kings for Chris Webber.

Meanwhile, it took weeks for O’Brien begrudgingly to modify his offense and defense (employing a zone seemed to be against his religion) to accommodate Webber’s passing skills as well as camouflage his lack of mobility due to off-season knee surgery.

Basically, it took O’Brien far less than a season to alienate almost everyone worthwhile, including Allen Iverson, Webber and chairman Ed Snider.

Cheeks isn’t the perfect replacement, by any stretch, say critics.

Getting someone within the Blazers organization to endorse his signing with the Sixers was next to impossible. His sideline methodology is suspect and he failed to correct numerous disciplinary problems until they were too far-gone to be alleviated.

Nevertheless, the Sixers’ former point god is a hallowed name in the City of Brotherly Love.

Nobody cherishes his friendship more than Iverson.

When Cheeks assisted Larry Brown, Iverson would turn to him early and often for counseling and comfort.

Of course, chummy alliances tend to get tested severely once an assistant is promoted to head coach and order on the court must be upheld regardless of affection or connection.

But at least there’s a chance the 76ers will bond with Cheeks.

They already were on bad terms with O’Brien and it was only getting worse at the end, not better.

What makes the Spurs so special is they don’t have to do it their way to beat you . . .they can do it your way and beat you . . .121-114 in Game 1, to be precise . . . without so much as activating Phoenix’s civil defense system.

In short, the Spurs did to the Suns what the Suns did to get to the Western Conference finals.

It had be one of the most frustrating days in Arizona hoops since Jerry Colangelo guessed wrong on the 1969 coin flip for the No. 1 draft pick (Lew Alcindor).

Speaking of the Spurs, no less an NBA authority than Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski touted their teamwork in an American Express commercial.

Which is intriguing considering he’s covertly campaigning to be the 2008 Olympic coach and his stiffest competition figures to be Spurs bench boss Gregg Popovich.

GM John Weisbrod stepped down Monday or was thrown overboard by the Magic earlier this week.

Since Weisbrod wasn’t deleted immediately after the season following an upsurge of personnel and coaching mistakes in the wake of the unobjectionable Tracy McGrady transaction, I’m inclined to believe he’s disassociating himself because his superiors were handpicking the incoming coach (Brian Hill).

If money hadn’t been an issue Flip Saunders seemed like a sure thing to beat out Hill for the Magic coaching job, though, one person fairly close to the situation is convinced Weisbrod wanted to hire Chris Ford.

Hill and another top candidate Eric Musselman previously coached in Orlando, the former in charge until Penny Hardaway led a 1996 in-season insurrection to vote him out.

Hill has remained tight with owner Rich DeVos and his family and that may have been more meaningful than anything.

Moreover, Hill came relatively cheap, making him the prohibitive favorite.

In any event, Weisbrod, a former pro hockey player with the broken bones, surgical procedures and scars to prove it, supposedly wants to run a team in the NHL that, unlike basketball, never has to worry about labor unrest.

Personnel director Dave Twardzik development director Otis Smith will assume co-command; a few days ago, says a source, Twardzik, already acting as if he were the man, informed assistant coach Paul Westhead his services were no longer needed.

Should the Timberwolves lock into P.J. Carlisemo look for Johnny Davis and Westhead to resurface as two assistants, says a source.

Pacers’ senior VP David Moray met with Cavaliers Dan Gilbert yesterday in Detroit. It’s believed the owner is looking to hire him as the team’s capologist and bring in someone else as GM.

A Kings official basically confirmed to me the Maloof Brothers have reached out to Phil Jackson (or his rep) to gauge interest about coaching Sacramento. Jackson didn’t reject the overture.

At the same time, the Lakers are the only team he’s serious about coaching. That is, at least until it’s obvious owner Jerry Buss won’t give him the clear line of authority that he wants.

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