Pistons rumors: Mo Cheeks will add Bernard Smith to coaching staff, says Matt Dery

Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Mo Cheeks is close to hiring a familiar assistant, reports Matt Dery:

Smith and Cheeks go back a long ways -- all the way back to when Cheeks was still playing for the 76ers and Smith was a teenager. You can read about their connection in this 2010 article from Lou Babiarz of the Bismarck Tribune, published shortly after Smith was hired as an assistant coach with the D-League's Bismarck Wizards:

Growing up in Philadelphia, Smith was a huge fan of the 76ers. When he was a teenager Philly had great teams - Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bobby Jones. But for Smith, an aspiring point guard, his favorite was Maurice Cheeks.

Smith couldn't afford tickets, but would watch every game on television - until the P.A. announcer at the Spectrum would announce that two minutes remained.

"We'd run out and sneak on the subway," Smith said. "By the time we'd get to the arena, the players would be coming out. We'd go collect autographs, shoes, headbands, wristbands."

Eventually Cheeks noticed Smith and asked him if he came to all the games. Smith said he was embarrassed, but told Cheeks that he couldn't afford to go to any of them.

"He told me, ‘Don't even call me for tickets. I'm leaving you tickets for every game,' " Smith said.

Cheeks made good on that promise, becoming a lifelong friend, and eventually Smith's mentor.

The rest is history: Smith landed a sales job with the Sixers in 1996, but learned enough about breaking down film on the side to be named Cheeks' video coordinator when Cheeks was hired by the Trail Blazers. From there he kept climbing the ladder, working the sidelines in the WNBA, D-League and NBA.

Cheeks helped get his foot in the door, but it sounds like he's hustled for everything after. I have zero idea what kind of expertise Smith brings to the table, but hey, it's a cool story -- and one that I didn't know anything about until reading Dery's tweet and Googling Smith's name. I hope it works out.

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