That same year, the Sixers tried to trade up for North Carolina guard Phil Ford, who was taken No. 2 overall. Philly also selected St. Bonaventure guard Glenn Hagan with the 43rd overall pick that year.
"I had no idea I was going to make the team," Cheeks said. "Then one day he (coach Billy Cunningham) told me at the baggage claim I had made it. At that time, we had four or five guys who could really score the ball and they needed someone to just run the team and to make sure the ball was getting to the people it was supposed to get to. I don't know what clinched it (making the final cut). All I tried to do was figure out how I could make that roster and it was to play defense and pass the ball."
Cheeks wound up playing 11 seasons with the Sixers (1978-89), then four more seasons with Sacramento, New York, Atlanta and New Jersey. He served as a Sixers assistant coach for seven seasons (1994-2001) before becoming head coach for Portland (2001-05) and Philadelphia (2005-08).
Cheeks currently ranks No. 5 all-time in career steals and No. 10 in career assists.
"A lot of them went hand-in-hand because a lot of times when I stole the ball, I was giving it to somebody else (for a basket)," Cheeks said. "My play was beneficial because I was with a lot of really, really good players and I benefitted in learning the game by playing with those good players. My play was not magnified because I had so many good players around, but I also was able to learn a lot more, and that's what helped me get better and better each year."
Thunder general manager Sam Presti said he marvels at Cheeks' basketball knowledge and at the demeanor he has shown since joining the coaching staff on Aug. 14, 2009.
"He's a great benefit to all of us," Presti said. "We don't take it for granted that we have somebody in our organization who has contributed as much to the game as Maurice. I just think he's a class act all the way around."
Presti stressed the value of having someone of Cheeks' stature in an organization that is in just its fourth season.
"He has been great to get to know," Presti said. "I feel really fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him and learn from him."