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By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — The flotsam from this past 76ers’ season comes in bits and pieces, not in large chunks that can be placed back together quickly. So it’s going to take some time to build a competitive team from the dismal 34-48 finish this season and out of the playoffs for the first time since the Eddie Jordan fiasco in 2009-10.
Sixers’ owner Josh Harris addressed the media Thursday morning and officially announced what had been speculated, confirming that Doug Collins would not be returning as head coach next season.
Harris stressed that it was Collins’ decision not to return—and also stressed that the Sixers would be interested in bringing back Andrew Bynum, a trade that had good intentions, though ended in disaster.
Harris tried to put a rosy picture on the separation from Collins. Harris trotted out the old bromide that Collins “wants to spend more time with his family” excuse. Behind closed doors, the reality was the players on this team had tuned Collins out, and Collins grew rapidly frustrated with them.
It was a mutual decision. A decision that Collins began thinking about a little over a month into the season.
“About Christmas, I knew that there was something else that I was thinking about and this job you have to pour your heart and soul into every, single second, and I love this city and I love the 76ers, and being away Christmas, and I have five grandkids now, and there is a lot of things that I want to enjoy,” Collins said. “This man [Josh Harris] has been great to me, the organization has been great to me. The one thing I talked about two months ago to [GM] Tony [DiLeo] and [adviser] Rod [Thorn] is I said I wonder if they can figure an exit strategy because it’s important that I go out with dignity. Because I think I did a lot of good things for this organization.”
Harris said that Collins will stay with the Sixers as an adviser for the next five years.
“We all know Doug, and we all love Doug,” Harris said. “He is going to stay on with the Sixers as my adviser. I would make it very clear that I would want Doug Collins back as my coach next year. This is his decision. He’s not being pushed out. I don’t know where that came from. I don’t know how these rumors start. I wish him well.”
“I’m going to be attached, it’s not I’m from the outside looking in,” Collins maintained. “I think there is tremendous growth with a lot of these young guys still. It’s unfortunate, because it would have been nice to see the puzzle that we tried to put together. What I will give Josh a lot of credit for is he wasn’t afraid. He took a chance. We took a chance. The problem is when you lose some assets and how quickly can you recoup those assets.
“You have to draft well, and trade well, and continue to develop our younger players. It’s one of the things we have to do is keep growing your young assets.”
Collins laughed off—or tried laughing off—that he lost this team.
“That’s tough to hear, I mean really, but then you the next game you play a great game and you hear, ‘He’s got ‘em back,” Collins said. “That’s what you got. As a coach, if you don’t have thick skin, you better not get in this business. The last week was very hard for me, very tough. I’m not one of these guys that burns bridges. I guess the thing that stung me the most is was at the end when it looked like they didn’t want me, because I knew that wasn’t true. I think I’ve done a lot of good things for this organization.”
Harris said Collins input will be welcome in choosing a new coach.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.