By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The report that the Sixers owners are “hoping” Doug Collins “decides” not to return to coach the team next season is laughable.
It’s not laughable because it’s an unlikely thing for the owners of the team to wish. It’s laughable because it seems all together too likely.
The report, from Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer, says that the organization hopes that Collins decides not to return for a few reasons.
First, they fear a public relations problem if they have to fire Collins.
This is perhaps the most egregious of all concerns about relieving Collins of his duties. If they do not believe Doug Collins is the right person to coach the team or make personnel decisions next year, what the public thinks of such a move should be low on their list. What the public ultimately wants is for the team is to win, and if they think keeping Doug Collins as coach is more important to the fanbase than winning, they’ve misread Philadelphia.
It’s also a ridiculous concern, because to have a public relations issue, the public has to care in the first place. In case the team hasn’t noticed the thousands upon thousands of empty seats at every game, slim to no chatter on sports radio or at the proverbial water cooler about the team, or any other of the many signs that no one cares about the team right now, let me be the first to deliver the news; guys, nobody cares. When I say nobody, I don’t mean to insult the die-hards that stick with the team through thick and thin, but the group is small and waning, and is made up largely by sadomasochists.
The next reason that Ford’s insider gives is that the Sixers would rather not pay Collins the $4.5 million he’s owed next year. This is an at-best disappointing reason, and at worst it’s insulting.
The Sixers paid Elton Brand over $15 million dollars this year to play for the Dallas Mavericks when they decided to use the amnesty clause on him prior to this season. Every point, rebound and block shot that Brand recorded this year was for another basketball team. The team told us at the time that money was not an issue if it stood in the way of winning. If you can pay Elton Brand, the team’s best post defender, a wonderful guy and a positive locker room presence to go play somewhere else, you can pay Collins a third of that to do color analysis for TNT.
Let me be clear here, Josh Harris, Adam Aron, and the rest of the Sixers owners get to make every single decision regarding the team if they feel like it, and that includes whether Doug Collins is allowed in the building and has an office. You guys own the team, Doug Collins is an employee.
If the team would “rather” that Doug Collins not be the coach next year, there is no option but to fire him. If they’d like to work out some sort of financial compromise and joint press conference to call the thing mutual, that’s fine. But they cannot be strong armed by Collins, and paralyzed by the fear of a PR hit (that would likely last about six hours if it lasted that long), and the cost of his salary.
If the owners want him gone, Collins does not get to determine whether he’s a front office presence, an adviser, or anything. The only thing he is owed, at the very most, is his salary and a thank you card.
When Collins goes, and I believe he ultimately will (perhaps along with Thorn and DiLeo), the Sixers owners will lose the safety net that came along with the team when they bought it. They will face their toughest test to date.
If you want good PR, build a winner, fellas. No more quick fixes. No more t-shirt cannons. Just a winner.
Follow Spike on Twitter @SpikeEskin.