Every time Randy Ayers steps into the Wells Fargo Center, he can't help but remember the good times.
Those classic days as an assistant coach on Larry Brown's staff. The Allen Iverson memories. That Sixers' NBA Finals appearance in 2001. And of course June 20, 2003, the day he was named Sixers head coach, replacing Brown.
"I had some great memories in here," Ayers said prior to Tuesday night's Sixers-Hornets game.
He also had some not so great memories.
The one that stands out occurred on Feb. 10, 2004, when, after 52 games, he was fired by the Sixers.
Ayers, who is now an assistant for New Orleans Hornets head coach Monty Williams, remembers that day as if it happened yesterday. His only objection to the occurrence was the timing.
"I've said this all along, I didn't have any problems about getting fired. The timing of it was a concern of mine," said Ayers, who was 21-31 as head coach. "I felt like I deserved a full season and my thoughts on that haven't changed."
One could assume that firing turned Ayers off from seeking another head coaching job, and if you talk to him, that seems to be the case.
The two-time Sixers assistant -- he was also a part of Eddie Jordan's staff in 2009-10 -- is accepting his role nowadays. Though he has the role of an assistant coach, he considers himself doing something much more.
"I'm teaching," he said. "That's what I've always thought I could do, and I enjoy doing it."
Hornets center and ex-Sixer Jason Smith concurred with labeling Ayers a teacher. Smith admired Ayers' approach with the younger big men like rookie center Anthony Davis and center Robin Lopez.
"Any little thing with footwork on offense," Smith said. "I know he coaches up Robin Lopez all the time. Any little thing to help you get better, he's right there for you."
Lopez admitted he was surprised by Ayers' knowledge. He said he had hardly heard of Ayers before the Phoenix Suns traded him to New Orleans before the start of the season, but working with Ayers has clearly paid off. Lopez is having the best season of his career, averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds.
"He looks at the game from a different perspective that I've never thought to look before," Lopez said. "He's definitely helped me pin down what I needed to be focusing on offensively. All across the board defensively, too."
Add a mentor and friend to Ayers' role. His desire to lead the herd has departed, as he is committed entirely on his current position.
"My job now is to help Monty," he said. "My passion right now is to help Monty and try to help the organization."
Williams, who named Ayers the lead assistant last season when Mike Malone departed for Golden State, had nothing but good things to say about Ayers. After the jokes, of course.
"He sucks as a coach," Williams joked after a morning shootaround on Tuesday. "I wish the Sixers would've kept him. It's ridiculous."
A few laughs, and Williams got serious when describing his friend.
"For me personally, he's been a gift," said Williams, who himself had a brief stint in Philadelphia for one season in 2002-03.
"There are days when I need help, or I can be off on a number of issues, and he's not afraid to tell me what's right and what's best for the team. His wisdom is something I rely on everyday."
Ayers knows what it's like to be in Williams' position. Some of the same errors that he made over his 30-plus years coaching, including those 52 games as a head coach in the NBA, he'll make sure Williams doesn't duplicate.
"You learn from them" Ayers said. "Hopefully I've grown from some of the mistakes I've made and I certainly don't want him to make some of the same mistakes as I did.
"Williams has a good feel. His playing days have really helped him. He's incorporated a lot of those thoughts in his coaching philosophies and does a good job. I think he's one of the bright young coaches in our league."
But still, one has to wonder what went wrong during his days in Philly. Why wasn't Ayers given a full season to prove he was the right hire? Asked what he would've done differently, Ayers pointed to one of Iverson's favorite subjects -- practice.
"I should've handled the practice management a little bit differently," he said. "It's one of the things I look back on. You know, you have to let veteran teams play and work themselves into a good situation. And you have to let them play and develop. With having Derrick Coleman and Allen, and Eric Snow and Aaron McKie, they knew how to play the game. It wasn't like I had to come in and teach, it was about more managing them than teaching."
E-mail Jabari Young at firstname.lastname@example.org