He comes in to jump start a young team. He’s highly emotional. Players feed off of it. They overachieve as a unit.
Eventually though, he wears on them. They don’t want to go through the rigmarole any longer. His challenges become insults. His voice begins to sound like nails on a chalkboard to them. They disengage. They UNDERACHIEVE.
This has been the book on Doug Collins for as long as we’ve known him. Yet, it still surprises us.
When The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the Philadelphia 76ers hoped Doug Collins would step down (a nice way of asking him to quit), and that they wouldn’t extend him regardless of his decision, I received countless texts, tweets and emails from fans, friends and colleagues, most of whom were on Collins’ behalf. Either they couldn’t seem to understand it, didn’t think the lost season was his fault, or a combination of both.
The truth is that Doug Collins simply wears on his teams and his co-workers. He always has. His teams have historically shown vast improvement upon his arrival as well.
When the Chicago Bulls hired him in 1986, he improved their win total by 10 games in his first season. He coached the Detroit Pistons in 1995-96 and Washington Wizards in 2001-02, improving their win totals by 18 each. He lasted no more than three years with any of those organizations. In 2010-11, the Sixers started off 3-13 in Collins first year as head coach. They finished the season 14 wins better than in 2009-10.
The end of this season? The end of year three.
Collins, a former No. 1 overall pick by the 76ers, has a huge coaching ego, which seems to lead to his demise. He is very demanding, very forthright in what he needs and wants and reportedly is not a fun guy to work with. There’s a certain level of uncomfortableness whenever he’s in a team or front office meeting. As much as we think of sports as a meritocracy, there are aspects of it that are no different than the real world. Most of us spend the majority of our time at our workplace. We want to work with people we enjoy being around, if ever given the option. Most of us don’t have a choice. The Sixers front office does.
The issue is, that as great as Collins is at turning a young team around, at demonstrating to them what they’re capable of, they always seem to reach a plateau. When that plateau is reached, as it seemingly did in Philadelphia last year, it’s no longer worthwhile. As anyone involved in sports in any way will tell you: winning cures all. If the Sixers were skating into the playoffs this season, Evan Turner was vastly improving and the future felt bright, you can bet your ass I’m not writing this piece today. Yet Doug Collins would still be Doug Collins, and his bosses would tolerate him for (at least) one more season.
Obviously that’s not the case here. So what we’re left with is a possible public relations nightmare if the fans of this team overwhelmingly side with Collins. In case you’re unsure, that is the absolute last thing Joshua Harris and the rest of the new ownership group wants.
In 2002 the First Union/Wachovia/Wells Fargo Center’s attendance peaked at an average of 20,560 for Sixers home games. That number dipped slowly over time as the team failed to see the type of playoff glory they saw in 2001. In the 2009-10 season, known around Philly as “The Eddie Jordan Season,” average attendance sunk to just over 14,200 per home game. This season Joshua Harris is seeing averages of just over 16,500 per, and it’s been declining since the Denver season opener, which was sold out, as Andrew Bynum‘s status became more and more clear. You can bank on the fact that this ownership group has those attendance numbers on a big whiteboard in a big conference room where they all meet. And more importantly, the numbers of season ticket renewals, which are happening less frequently for their team than three-game winning streaks.
The case for Doug Collins:
The ownership’s idea to use media outlets to let Doug Collins know that they hope he steps down was the worst possible way to go about this. Essentially they asked Doug to quit so they wouldn’t have to pay him the $4.5 million they would owe him if they simply fired him. I guess the $32.5 million they’ve paid Bynum and Elton Brand to do absolutely nothing for them has been enough, and they can’t spare the $4.5 million for Collins. Whatever.
The Andrew Bynum trade has been a total disaster. Philadelphia has dealt with countless injuries, many at inopportune times that have prevented them from developing any consistency in their rotation. Jrue Holiday‘s growth has been incredible to watch. Collins must get some credit for that. Evan Turner has failed to improve and help his team in any meaningful way (which, I suppose, could go against Collins as well, but given Jrue’s improvement, I put this one on Evan).
The case against Doug Collins:
His players don’t play hard for him any longer. They don’t respond. We all understand this is a depleted roster, regardless, it is the coach’s responsibility to get his players prepared, and to get them to play hard. Every night. Collins also handpicked the supporting cast for this team, guys to surround Andrew Bynum with, and if Bynum was playing, maybe it would be different. But as this team stands right now, he did not do a very good job (selecting them).
The 76ers have $27.6 million coming off of the books this summer, including Andrew Bynum. They have another $6-plus million coming off next year in Spencer Hawes, and another $6.5 million if Jason Richardson opts out next summer. That’s anywhere from $33-40 million in free cap space in the next two years. If the Sixers don’t believe Collins is the guy, or they’re simply sick of dealing with him, then he doesn’t need to be here, whether the reasons are just or not. The guy the Sixers want to coach that team, whoever he is, needs to be the guy who determines where to spend that coin, along with the front office.
I do think it’s absolutely ridiculous (and stupid, for lack of a better term) for the Sixers to use media outlets to let Collins know they hope he quits. They hope he quits so they don’t have to pay him. Here’s a news flash To Whom This May Concern:
Collins is a media darling. They love him. You’re not going to win a media based war with him. They’ll side with Collins. Every time. And if you didn’t want to pay Collins than you shouldn’t have extended him last summer. Asking the media to post something stating you hope he quits, knowing it’ll get back to him, is a huge slap in the face.
The Sixers came within one game of the Eastern Conference Finals last season. Name one coach, other than DC who takes that team that far. You can’t.
One small tangent in all of this is the fact that we know Andrew Bynum doesn’t want to play for Doug Collins. Is this a prelude to a deal with him? Only time will tell. But right now, the ball is in Collins’ court. We’ll all just have to wait and see what he does with it. I know the Sixers are waiting. Maybe The Inquirer will let ’em know.
What should happen with Philadelphia this summer?
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