Sixers evaluations: What led to Doug Collins' exit?

Sixers evaluations: What led to Doug Collins' exit?

May 6, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Doug Collins

Position: Former head coach

Status: Will make $4.5 million next year as part of settlement, transition to consultant.

Signature game of 2012-13

The Sixers lost at home to the lowly Orlando Magic by 14 in late February. While the game was forgettable, we’ll remember Doug Collins’ postgame rant for quite some time. Collins talked about his team’s lack of effort, the poor mix of personnel, the leadership void, and he also called out Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen by name. It was an excellent screed – a performance far better than anything the Sixers delivered on the court.

Collins in 2012-13

There are two evaluations of Collins’ performance that need to be made: Collins as the head coach, and Collins as one of the chief front office decision-makers who helped dismantle a team that overachieved in order to assemble a team that underachieved.

First, the coach: Jrue Holiday developed into an all-star, and Thaddeus Young became a reliable front-court starter. Evan Turner was inconsistent. Everyone else was invisible and/or disposable, including rookie Arnett Moultrie, who found himself benched or marginalized for large chunks of the season. If there has been one major knock against Collins as a coach, it has been his lack of patience or desire to develop young talent. (See: Vucevic, Nik and double-double.)

The Sixers were last in the league in scoring, last in free throws made per game, second-to-last in free throws attempted per game, 20th in rebounds per game, 21st in three-pointers made per game, 22nd in field goal percentage and 23rd in point differential. In short, they didn’t do anything particularly well -– mainly because the overall player mix was terrible.

Two years ago, the Sixers posted 35 wins in a 66-game lockout-shortened season and came within one victory of reaching the Eastern Conference Finals. This year, they had 34 wins in a full 82-game season and missed the playoffs altogether. They were not a good team. Given the roster limitations, it’s fairly remarkable that Collins the coach squeezed 34 victories out of a squad that had to play the likes of Nick Young, Hawes, Allen, Damien Wilkins and Royal Ivey. Phil Jackson or Red Auerbach’s ghost would have been hard pressed to do better.

Collins the coach –- on a game-to-game, try-to-win-each-night basis –- was OK. Which brings us to Collins as a talent evaluator: He was not OK.

As part of the front office decision-making process, Collins had a bad year. A very bad year. The kind of year that makes you want to quit your gig and spend your millions doing something else, which is exactly what happened.

"I think the team that we've tried to put together, we've never seen,” Collins said in late February. “And so I think what happens is, when you take a huge piece away from it, your warts show."

They had so many warts it’s amazing any of them had the courage to be seen in public without wearing some sort of Phantom of the Opera face mask. When Collins said the Andre Iguodala/Elton Brand/Lou Williams team from two years ago had maxed out its potential, he was right. And he and the organization were right to gamble on Andrew Bynum even though the trade obviously didn’t work out. They had to take a chance.

That wasn’t the problem. The problem was with the team Collins, Rod Thorn and Tony DiLeo built after tearing down the old infrastructure. Collins claimed they never saw the entire team together, which is true. But they did see large parts of the team, and it malfunctioned badly.

Collins pushed for Kwame Brown, who was given a ridiculous $3 million deal with an inexplicable player option for next season worth another $3 million. Brown, if you’ve forgotten, didn’t play the last 28 games of the season, and he sat out 36 of the final 38.

Collins also insisted Nick Young and Dorell Wright were good additions. Wright had a rough season, and Young was dreadful.  

No wonder Collins said he decided way back in December that he wouldn’t coach next year. Collins the talent evaluator did Collins the coach no favors.


Collins is a smart guy. He looked at the Sixers’ situation -- limited assets, limited cap space, an out-going president, along with an difficult decision on Bynum that’s still pending –- and realized the organization is in a tough spot and probably will be for a while. And so he walked. It’s hard to blame him.

Despite the difficult year, it’s a shame to see him go. Collins was a better game-day coach than he was given credit for being. He was good with the fans. He was good with the media. And though he hasn’t made a shot in decades, he remained the face of the franchise. Those are all valuable commodities.

Had the Sixers brought in a bright, strong-willed, calculating front office executive to pick the personnel and leave Collins alone to coach, things might have been different. That never seemed like an arrangement Collins was interested in, however.

Now he’s gone -– off to watch his son, Chris, coach Northwestern’s program. And he’ll probably get back into a TV booth as an NBA analyst before long. He was always good at that.

Collins will be just fine without the Sixers. The Sixers will have a much harder time without Collins.

On Doug Collins

"Can I tell you something? If everybody looked inside themselves as much as I did, this world would be a CAT scan. OK?” –Doug Collins, Feb. 26, 2013

“I haven’t had conversations with him about [coaching in 2013-14]. But, look, I’ll say it again: There is no coach controversy in Philadelphia. Doug Collins is a superb NBA coach. I hope Doug Collins is our coach for years and years and years and years. We’ll all see what happens together.” –Adam Aron, March 4, 2013

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