By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Heavy is the head that wears the crown. Unless your name is Doug Collins, in which case the crown is conveniently moved from person to person based on the situation.
Doug Collins has done a lot of good in his time as Sixers coach. He helped Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, Jrue Holiday and even Iguodala find out how they can be the very best player they can be. He helped lead the team to its first playoff series win in a decade. He gave the organization a desperately needed face.
But time’s up.
Collins doesn’t think the effort and the energy Sixers players display during games is his responsibility. Doug Collins is the head coach of the Sixers.
He said that Tuesday night after the woeful Sixers lost to the also woeful Orlando Magic at the Wells Fargo Center. He was quoting legendary Tennessee Lady Vols head coach Pat Summitt when he made the statement.
Pat Summitt, who coached the Lady Vols for 28 consecutive seasons, winning eight National Championships.
Collins, who has never lasted more than three seasons with any one NBA team, and has never coached a team in the Finals.
Collins also lamented after the game that the off-season trade that sent away first round draft picks Moe Harkless, Nik Vucevic and Andre Iguodala has netted the Sixers nothing.
Collins, who has final say in Sixers personnel decisions, something he fought for during this off-season. A move that resulted in several general manager candidates interviewing for the position, but walking away. Thanks, but no thanks. Who would want that job without the ability to make the final call?
Collins did not expect a lack of energy and focus from his team against the Magic. An energy and focus he thought was present against the Knicks and the Heat. The truth is, any NBA player can get up for playing on a Saturday night against the Heat, or a Sunday night at Madison Square Garden. At home against one of the worst teams in the NBA is when Collins’ job as a motivator is its most important. The players failed, and Collins failed.
Energy and effort is what made Pat Riley’s career. Riley, who won an NBA championship as a player, another as an assistant coach, five as a head coach, and another as general manager.
Let’s put energy and effort aside for a moment. Is strategy Collins’ responsibility? If it is, that’s terrible as well. The Sixers are shooting more contested, long, two point jump shots than any team I can ever remember watching. Their inefficient offense is unsurprisingly based around the most inefficient shot in basketball.
Doug Collins’ press conference after last night’s Sixers game was an unacceptable attempt to shift blame. Just minutes after walking off the court before the game was over.
He knows basketball as well as any person alive. Perhaps there is a good situation for him to be a head coach in the NBA, but this isn’t it. His aversion to playing young players and tendency to wear down players with his personality has run its course. The organization handed him the keys after last season, and will regret it if they don’t demand them back.
Collins is losing the locker room, his comments on Tuesday are an admission of it. It’s not surprising, because it’s happened every place he’s coached. He has, once again, exhausted his players, some have even reached the point where they would rather play elsewhere than deal with him.
It happened last season as well, when a Derrick Rose torn ACL erased the memory of a Sixers team that fell apart at the seams for the final six weeks of the regular season. Kate Fagan, a former Sixers beat writer wrote a blog about dissension under Collins, and he reacted defensively in front of the cameras, and behind them.
“How could someone who isn’t in the locker room every day know these things?” Collins basically asked the press when questioned about it.
The truth is, even if you weren’t at the Wells Fargo Center last night, even if you didn’t see one second of the game, I think I could convey to you how bad it was. The truth is, you don’t always have to be in the locker room to know what happened there.
With the weight of a failing season sitting squarely on his shoulders, Doug Collins shirked the blame, attempting to shift it instead to then Sixers small forward Andre Iguodala. While Collins supported Iguodala in front of the cameras, he crushed him behind them a source said. He took Sixers beat reporters and a national NBA reporter aside after one practice and laid into the leadership acumen of Iguodala. It wasn’t a short session either, it was an extended, pointed, direct shot at Iguodala. Collins made it clear that one of them would be gone, and it wasn’t going to be Collins.
The crown would be Iguodala’s.
Iguodala, who went on to win a gold medal, is the longest tenured starter, and second longest tenured player on a Denver Nuggets team whose record stands at 36-22, and 24-3 at home. Iguodala’s offensive statistics this season are some of the worst of his career. Who knows, maybe he’s done something for the locker room.
With the weight of the failing season falling squarely on Collins’ shoulders, he lamented out loud in the locker room that the players were going to run him out of town, a locker room source said. Again. “They got Mike (D’Antoni), they got Nate (McMillan), and now they’re going to get me.”
With the season on the brink, and fans and front office personnel alike calling for Evan Turner to start, Collins screamed at another front office member that he had the support of the owners, and would do whatever he wanted to.
When Collins was asked by Sixers beat writer John Mitchell this season if he was losing his players, Collins tore into Mitchell.
This Sixers season has become an unmitigated disaster, and it’s not just Collins’ fault. The Andrew Bynum trade has been a disaster, and the remaining roster is mediocre at best. But the Bulls did not fall apart without Derrick Rose, and the Pacers did not fall apart without Danny Granger.
Collins said he couldn’t believe he was being booed as a coach, and he was never booed as a player. He was a better player than he is a coach. He should give Andy Reid a call and find out if any coach has been booed before.
The answer always includes better players. This is going to be a challenge considering the Sixers lack of young assets, draft picks, and a desirable situation. The players are not good, that’s for sure.
But the answer also includes a new coach, one who is comfortable playing a first round pick more than six minutes, or at all, like Collins has done with Arnett Moultrie.
Doug Collins helped select the roster that he is having trouble coaching.
When the coach loses the locker room, it’s not always the coach’s fault. But it’s always the coach’s problem.