Stephen A. Smith: Tough to figure why he would take job

"Doug is an outstanding coach," said Michael Jordan, here being coached by Collins in 2002. "He works hard. He's committed to the game, and he knows what he's doing."
"Doug is an outstanding coach," said Michael Jordan, here being coached by Collins in 2002. "He works hard. He's committed to the game, and he knows what he's doing."
Posted: May 21, 2010

Anyone associated with the game of basketball knows that Doug Collins is an astute basketball mind. He played the game, he's coached the game, he's taught the game, and he's excelled at all three occupations.

What nobody knows at this moment is whether Collins has all his faculties or whether he has become just that desperate to be a head coach again. Because those are about the only reasons that make sense regarding his agreement to become the 76ers' new head man.

God bless him.

Let the Sixers celebrate, because they really have pulled off a coup with this one. Despite their flagrant ineptitude reflected by a 27-55 season, no cap room, and nothing near championship-caliber talent on their roster, they have managed to grab a respected basketball figure who appears interested in being the coach of this franchise.

"Doug deserves any opportunity that comes his way," Michael Jordan told me Wednesday. "Doug is an outstanding coach. He works hard. He's committed to the game, and he knows what he's doing. I've never had any problems with him, and I don't suspect anyone else will, either. At least not anybody who cares about improving and winning."

There's no need to say any more.

A show of hands from anyone who can definitively point to a single individual on the Sixers' roster who matters and appears more interested in the team's achievements than his own accomplishments?

Thought so.

Nobody's that stupid.

You won't see any hands because there are none to see. What you'll see instead is an $80 million forward (Elton Brand) with a suspect knee trying to return to relevance; an athletic guard/forward in Andre Iguodala who even the team believes is more focused on his initials (A.I.) than he is on his game.

You'll see big men who don't play big. Small forwards who want to be guards. And one point guard who's not really a point guard (Lou Williams) and another in the solid, young Jrue Holiday, who is still in puberty stage.

The Sixers know this is true. So it's safe to surmise that Collins knows this, too, which leaves his reasons for agreeing to coach the Sixers a bit perplexing.

We all know the multitude of openings for head coaches in the NBA. Atlanta, New Orleans, Chicago, and New Jersey all offer significantly better jobs than the Sixers - and better for Collins.

So in trying to figure out why the 58-year-old Collins elected to accept Philadelphia's job offer, every corner was checked. Every stone was overturned.

No evidence could be found regarding whether Collins had any dirt on chairman Ed Snider or Comcast-Spectacor's Peter Luukko. Collins purportedly isn't married to any of their relatives, either.

Collins' son, Chris, is an assistant at Duke, so there's no connection there. No one would ever accuse Collins' former employer, TNT, of being partial to the Sixers or vice versa.

Nothing. Nada.

"We believe this is a fantastic job to have," Luukko said earlier in the week. "We believe we have talent that's significantly better than our record. That is why changes were made, because we firmly believe as an organization that we underachieved this past season. We aim to fix it. To get better. To move in a forward direction and, hopefully, not look back. This decision absolutely needs to be the right one now."

That would explain why Luukko and Snider made that decision.

Numerous sources throughout the NBA confirmed several things about the Sixers over the last week, and there's no doubt the Sixers emphatically will deny every one of them.

Those sources said the decision to hire Collins was not that of president/GM Ed Stefanski, that he may have agreed, but it's not as if he would have made the decision. They also said Stefanski never had complete control of the hiring process because Sixers consultant Gene Shue, a respected basketball mind who offended no one with his participation in the coaching search, was assigned to join Stefanski.

Multiple sources harped on Stefanski's conducting a search without knowing his own status. They asked how anyone would know it's Collins he truly wanted - no matter what he's forced to say to the public.

"You're either calling the shots in this league or you're playing along to hang on," a former GM in this league said Thursday. "We all know what position Stefanski's in right now."

It's the least of Collins' worries at the moment. But these are the Sixers we're talking about.

Give it time.


Contact columnist Stephen A. Smith at 215-854-5846 or ssmith@phillynews.com.

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