After weeks of rumors that Doug Collins was not returning to the Sixers' sideline, the team’s owner made it official Thursday morning, though even Joshua Harris took his time getting to the topic of his head coach.
Harris was three minutes into his opening comments about the season when he mentioned Collins' name.
“I have one more thought. There has been speculation about Doug Collins; Doug will not coach next season,” Harris said.
Finally someone acknowledged the elephant that has been in the middle of the room.
“He is a proud father, and at the end of the day, he wants to spend more time with his family,” Harris continued. “We all know Doug and love Doug. He is a 24/7, 100-mile-an-hour guy and that is something I can really appreciate. He doesn’t want to coach anywhere next season.”
Harris further put to rest that Collins was being forced out of his position.
“I want to make it very clear that I would love Doug Collins back as my coach next year,” Harris stressed. “This is his decision. He is not being pushed out. I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know how these rumors start, to be honest with you. It is crazy. I just want to make that unequivocally clear, but this is where we are, and I look forward to working with him in a new capacity.”
Collins will stay on in the organization as Joshua Harris’ personal advisor for the next five years.
“He has treated me like solid gold,” Collins said of Harris. “He has been so great to me. The organization has been great.”
Collins' exit strategy as the Sixers' head coach was actually months in the making.
“Christmas,” Collins responded when asked when he came to his decision. “This job, you have to poor your heart and soul into every single second. I love this city and I love this organization.”
Collins reiterated what Harris said about him wanting to spend more time with his family as the reason for his departure despite one year remaining on his contract. Collins is the proud grandfather of five and father of two. His son Chris was just given his first head-coaching job by Northwestern University.
“There are a lot of things I want to enjoy, and I think it is every man’s dream to be able to live that life that you work so hard to try and live,” Collins said. “That is what I want to do.
“Two months ago, I talked to Tony [DiLeo] and Rod [Thorn], and I said, 'I wonder if we can figure out an exit strategy, because it is important for me to go out with dignity, because I think I have done a lot of good things for this organization.”
No one would argue that Collins did many good things in his three years here. He took a team that won 27 games and had them in the playoffs his first year at the helm. He produced two all-stars in Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday. And last year the team’s playoff record was 7-6.
This season, however, had little to celebrate -- with much of the disappointment attached to the Andrew Bynum trade (see story) being a total loss. And his resigning was not handled well when word got out that Collins had told Harris this season was it.
As for Collins’ players, who finished the season winners of 11 of their final 20 games, they appreciate what he brought to them and how he helped them develop.
“I didn’t know until just now,” Jrue Holiday said after his morning exit interview. “Obviously, it is his decision, and he did what he felt he had to do. Obviously, it is sad to see him go because I have grown so much as he has been the coach (see story). I was an All-Star this year and that was for a reason. I know he didn’t want to burden us with that, especially with the season and the way it turned out. At the end of the day he’s my man.
Collins is the only coach Evan Turner has known at the NBA level. Each year, Turner improved and gained a greater role. He feels as time goes on he will hear Collins' words louder than when his coach spoke them originally.
“He is my coach. I appreciate what he has done for me and my team,” Turner said. “There was never any bad blood or anything crazy like that. He made his decision and I think he did what he thought was best for him and you wish him well. His effect is going to help me long-term. He taught me how to prepare, how to be a pro’s pro. He taught me stuff I will probably realize three or four years from now -- things he spoke upon I will recognize later in life.”
The search for Collins' successor will be tedious and won't be rushed.
“We are going to go through a whole process of figuring out the attributes of what we need here in Philly to win,” Harris said. “Certainly Doug’s thoughts will be welcome along with a lot of other input.”