Doug Collins wasn’t pushed out. He wasn’t forced out.
Quite the contrary.
The 76ers tried everything they could think of to bring Collins back for a fourth season as head coach.
It was just time for Collins. He started pondering this decision around Christmas when the Sixers were in the midst of a grueling 13-day road trip.
“I wanted to go out with dignity,” Collins said Thursday at PCOM, the Sixers’ practice facility.
The 61-year-old Collins recently attended the press conference introducing his son, Chris, as the head coach at Northwestern. Collins also referenced spending more time with his five grandkids.
“This job, you’ve got to pour your heart and soul into it every single second,” said Collins, who will remain a special adviser to owner Josh Harris. “I love this city, and I love the 76ers. I’ve been with this organization for 40 years. There are a lot of things I want to enjoy. I think it’s every man’s dream to live that life that you’ve worked so hard to try to live, and that’s what I want to do.”
Harris spoke with reporters first and vehemently denied that Collins was being pushed out.
“At the end of the day, he’s a proud father and he wants to spend more time with his family,” Harris said. “Doug is a 24-7, 100 mile-per-hour guy, which I really appreciate. He doesn’t want to be coaching next year anywhere. … He loves the Sixers. He loves the city. He’s not planning on coaching anywhere else. It was a personal decision for him. I want to make it very clear. I would love to have Doug Collins back as my coach next year. This is his decision. He’s not being pushed out.
“I tried to convince Doug to stay. But when someone says they want to spend time with their grandkids and help their son, I understand.”
When Collins was hired three seasons ago, he was determined to make the franchise relevant.
The Sixers advanced to the playoffs in two of Collins’ three seasons, and they were within one win of competing in the Eastern Conference Finals in his second year.
This season, the Sixers were ravaged by injuries, most notably to Andrew Bynum, who never played one second.
The Sixers finished 34-48 and out of the postseason.
“I don’t have to drop my head, I didn’t fail,” Collins said. “A lot of it was out of our control and sometimes you have to realize that. We’ve got a lot of good young pieces (and) we probably played our best basketball the last six weeks of the season, which was important to me.”
Players shocked by resignation
Doug Collins didn’t tell his players he was resigning following a season-ending victory at Indiana Wednesday night.
They found out Thursday morning at PCOM.
For the veterans such as forward Thaddeus Young, the longest-tenured player on the Sixers, it was a bit of a shock.
“Coach didn’t do anything but help me,” Young said. “He was a great role model and a great father figure. He’s by far the best [NBA] coach I’ve had.”
First-time All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday echoed similar thoughts.
“He is my man,” Holiday said. “I’ve grown so much (because of him).”
Sixers don’t rule out a Bynum return
Andrew Bynum never suited up in a Sixers uniform. But that doesn’t mean he won’t ever play at the Wells Fargo Center.
Despite being sidelined for an entire season with bilateral bone bruises on both knees, the 25-year-old center still could play for the Sixers.
Of course, the Sixers would have to sign him first.
Amazingly, Sixers owner Josh Harris left open the possibility that could happen.
“A healthy Bynum that’s playing is a needle-mover, a top-15 player,” said Harris, standing alongside coach Doug Collins, who announced his resignation at PCOM. “But the reality is, he didn’t play a game this season. There’s risk. We’re going to weigh the positives and the negatives and try to make a reasoned assessment of what’s appropriate for Andrew. Certainly we’re open to the prospect of bringing him back.”
Bynum underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees in March and remains an unrestricted free agent.
“At the end of the day, we’re competing with [29 other] teams for Andrew,” Harris said. “They need to make their own assessment. I don’t want to make a medical assessment of Andrew publicly that may or may not help other teams. We’re very open and interested in Andrew coming back if we can work out something that makes sense for everyone.”
Who’s the next coach?
» Michael Curry: Has been an NBA head coach before and knows the roster as an associate head coach, not to mention the league.
» Avery Johnson: Was in the mix when Collins was hired. Had a lot of success as a head coach with the Mavericks and Nets.
» Jeff Van Gundy/Stan Van Gundy: Both have a plethora of coaching experience and could easily step into this role.
» Phil Jackson: You have to make the call, don’t you?
» Mike Brown: Took the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals and won a lot of games. Didn’t have the same track record with the Lakers, but still has a strong NBA background.
» Byron Scott: Just fired by the Cavaliers, but could be a good fit here.