Doug Collins sounds like he isn't coming back

Doug Collins sounds like he isn't coming back

April 12, 2013, 9:00 pm
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WASHINGTON -- Everyone knew what would be asked. No one knew how he would respond.

On Thursday, the Inquirer cited multiple sources that said the Sixers privately hope “Doug Collins decides not to return for the 2013-14 season.” Collins has one year remaining on his deal. The report also said it will be Collins’ decision whether or not he comes back next season but, even if he does, the team “does not intend to extend his contract.”

However, a source told CSNPhilly.com on Thursday that if Collins does not return to coach the Sixers next season, it won’t be because the Sixers want him out. The source said that the Sixers are completely supportive of Collins as he heads into the last season of his contract as the team's head coach (see story).  

That was the backdrop for Friday’s game at the Verizon Center in Washington against the Wizards. Collins didn’t talk to the media following the morning shootaround -- which only heightened the anticipation for his usual pre-tipoff chit-chat with reporters. A little more than an hour before the game began, Collins emerged from the visitors’ locker room.

Given the Inquirer story, someone asked, do you feel supported by the organization?

“Absolutely,” Collins said. “I’m going to talk about the NBA. I’m going to talk about Washington. So let’s move forward to the basketball game,” (see story).

When another reporter tried to follow up, Collins cut him off.

“Let’s move forward to the basketball game,” Collins said. “We have four more games to play. I’ve told you all along I’m not the topic of conversation. We’re going to focus in on the games and we’re going to play those. We’ll sit down at the end of the season, as I’ve always done. I’ve got a wonderful relationship with [Sixers majority owner] Josh Harris, and we will discuss what we need to do next year.”

Collins said he doesn’t “get into all the nonsense that’s written. If I did, I’d be slobbering all over myself right now.”

That may or may not be true. But considering all the speculation about his situation, wouldn’t Collins want to answer the question now, tell people whether he’ll return, and put it all to rest so that, as he insisted he was so interested in doing, he could focus on basketball matters?

“I have nothing to put to bed,” Collins said. “Guys, you’re not going to trick me.”

No one was trying to trick him. Everyone knew what would happen –- that he would be asked about the story and questioned about whether he plans to return next season. The Sixers are not a good basketball team. We’ve known for a while that they aren’t headed to the playoffs and that their summer vacation begins next Thursday. The only thing fans and the media are interested in at the moment is whether Collins will be back.

Collins is a smart guy. He’s fully aware of all that. Which is why it sure doesn’t sound or feel like he’ll be coaching the Sixers next season. If he intended to do so, if he planned to stay in town next year, wouldn’t it make sense to say so and end all the speculation? He didn’t do that.

Behind the scenes, more than one member of the organization has adopted this theory: That Collins -- or members of his camp –- planted the story to give the head coach an out if he doesn’t serve the final year of his contract. Well, see, they didn’t want me back, so why would I come back? It’s on them, not me. That kind of thing.

As cui bono conspiracies go, it makes sense. But when trying to forecast whether Collins will be back, who may have planted the story matters less than the team’s grim situation.

The Andrew Bynum move was a disaster. The Sixers have few assets beyond Jrue Holiday (who emerged as an All-Star) and Thaddeus Young (who, while not a star, is at least a consistent frontcourt starter). You can throw Evan Turner in there if you like, but his value still seems suspect. And rebuilding the team is going to be awfully difficult given the team’s salary cap constraints.

The working belief is that the NBA cap will be about $60 million next year. Even if they eliminate Bynum, Nick Young, Dorrell Wright and all the guys sucking up seats (and money) at the end of the bench, the Sixers will have about $46 million committed next season. Factor in what they’ll likely pay their first-round draft pick, and they’re looking at somewhere around $11 million in cap space. If you’re wondering what they can do with $11 million in free agency, the answer is not much.

Again, Collins is a smart guy. He knows all that. He’s reportedly owed $4.5 million next year. That’s a lot of money, even for someone as well off as Collins. But when you’re as well off as Collins, is $4.5 million worth diving into the rebuilding quicksand that figures to drag the organization under in the offseason? It doesn’t appear so.