Sixers shouldn't feel the need to make flashy coaching hire

Sixers shouldn't feel the need to make flashy coaching hire
April 18, 2013, 11:45 am
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After a season that has not gone as anticipated for the Sixers, Doug Collins and owner John Harris addressed the media Thursday to announce that Collins is out as head coach but will remain with the franchise as an adviser (see story).

The announcement follows a 34-48 campaign capped off by a 105-95 win over the Pacers Wednesday night.

After the game, when asked if any other season in his previous 11 years coaching an NBA team had ever taken so much out of him emotionally, Collins gave a peculiar answer.

“You know what is interesting, everybody always talks about my third year with teams,” Collins said. “I always love it. Every third year I have had there has been a major trade.

"In Chicago we traded for Bill Cartwright and Oakley. In Detroit we totally rebuilt our team. We had a 54-win team that we knew wasn’t a 54-win team so we signed Bison Dele in the off season and we traded Theo Ratliff for Jerry Stackhouse. In Washington we got our salary cap down and got it 16 million under because we knew it was Michael’s last year and we thought we put ourselves in great position to make a run.

"This year we made the big deal for Andrew Bynum.”

Collins guided the 1987-88 Bulls to 50 wins with Charles Oakley averaging 12 points and 13 rebounds. The following season Chicago, without Oakley, won 47 games.

The biggest difference between those two season was that Collins and the 1988-89 Bulls played 10 playoff games. In his third season Chicago played in 17 postseason contests. The big trade Collins talked about with Chicago did not appear to hinder the team's progress. He took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals and still lost his job.

Collins resurfaced in Detroit in the mid-90s and, with a retooled roster in his third season, he was fired 45 games into the season, with the Pistons three games under .500.

In Washington, the impending departure of Michael Jordan made for a change in direction.

Now, with the Sixers, he's saying he wants to walk away to spend more time with his family, a decision that came after a whole lot of change didn't turn out as planned.

Collins will be fine. His career will take a turn back to being a television analyst while his personal life will allow for plenty of time to soak in his son making his college head-coaching debut at Northwestern.

The Sixers' future, on the other hand, is in disarray with respect to landing a successor to Collins.

There's an idea that franchises need to make a splash when hiring a new coach, but that's not necessarily a sound plan and it's no more guaranteed to work than hiring a young up-and-comer.

Frank Vogel, for example, is 110-77 with a .588 winning percentage with Indiana. He was 37 years old when an unlikely opportunity knocked.

“I think if you don’t have a big name, I think it is tough to win some of these jobs that could be open,” Vogel said after Wednesday night's game. “Obviously the recommendations of the higher-ups factor into it. The success of the teams you have been with as an assistant coach factors into it as well.”

Vogel will turn 40 in June and in his second full season with the Pacers. He was hired on an interim basis in 2010-11 after then-head coach Jim O’Brien was fired.

Vogel had been an assistant coach with the Sixers and Celtics prior. He never dreamed a head coaching job at this level would be on his resume.

“I was pretty certain it wouldn’t,” Vogel said. “It would be a miracle for me to get a shot as an interim coach because I had not played in the league and I had never been a college head coach. So I really thought it would be a long shot for me to get an opportunity.”

Two names come to mind that, like Vogel, neither played in the NBA nor had head coaching experience at the college level when they were given their initial opportunity as an NBA head coach: Miami’s Eric Spoelstra and Detroit’s Lawrence Frank.

Spoelstra is trying to repeat as World Champions with the Miami Heat this season, while Frank lost three times in the conference semifinals with the Nets before taking over a rebuilding Pistons team two years ago. They're both 42 years old.

And where would Chicago be without Tom Thibodeau, who despite not having his star player Derrick Rose, has his team back in the postseason for a third straight year? Thibodeau has compiled an NBA record of 157-73 in his three-year tenure with the Bulls.

He waited 18 years before being given an opportunity to run his own team.

One last example of a non-splash success story, former Sixers assistant Mike Woodson was made interim coach last year and now has the Knicks as the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a record of 54-28. He's in line for coach of the year consideration.

Of course, New York is not Woodson’s first NBA head coaching position. He spent six years coaching the Atlanta Hawks and was fired after guiding them to a 53-29 mark before losing the in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The moral of this story: The homework that needs to be done is on finding the next assistant coach that will be a long-time NBA head coach if given the opportunity.