Mo Cheeks and Reggie Theus, it almost happened
Rod Thorn reflects to the media on the night he passed up drafting Maurice Cheeks
It's not like Rod Thorn didn't know point guards. His acquisition of Jason Kidd got the New Jersey Nets to a pair of NBA Finals and helped Thorn be selected for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and enshrinement Friday along with Kidd.
Chicagoan Maurice Cheeks from DuSable High School also is being enshrined in the Hall of Fame Friday. It's mostly because of his playing career with the Philadelphia 76ers, with whom Cheeks became a champion and among the NBA's all-time leaders in steals and assists.
It should have been with the Bulls.
"It's my first draft as Bulls general manager in 1978 and we take Reggie Theus in the first round, good player," Thorn was saying Thursday afternoon at a Hall of Fame media reception in Springfield while Cheeks sat nearby also answering media questions. "Second round, I take Marvin Johnson from New Mexico. Never played for us. In the preseason, (coach Larry) Costello tells me he can't play and we cut him. But back at the draft, Mr. Cheeks is sitting in the front row at the Bismarck Hotel. Stupidest thing I've ever seen. We're sitting out in front of a big crowd doing the draft.
"Mr. Cheeks from the first row after we make our picks stands up and says, but in a nice way, 'You're going to regret not taking Mo Cheeks.' And then he gets up and leaves. I didn't know who he was. Someone tells me it's Mo's father. Our scouts and we felt Mo was OK, but we didn't see him being a terrific NBA player.
"When I got to the Bulls we had Wilbur Holland at point guard," recalled Thorn with a bit of a wince. "He was deaf in one ear and Wilbur would run up the court and Costello would call out a play and Wilbur would not hear or act like he didn't hear what the play was. We tried Reggie at point guard, but he wasn't a point guard. We ended up getting Ricky Sobers, who helped us. But Cheeks with Reggie would have been a heck of a backcourt and we had Artis (Gilmore), who could score. Mo would have been great."
As Thorn was relating the story Thursday afternoon, Cheeks walked by and stopped with some friends and family.
"Yeah, I heard about it," he said with a smile. "I was just trying to get picked by anyone. I didn't know I was going to get picked at all. I guess he (father) knew more than I did. Rod did OK. He got Michael Jordan later on."
Again, if only.
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