Doug Collins ego has swallowed the 76ers organization whole. Absorbed it. Subsumed it. Sucked it in and spat it out, shiny and new, in his own image.
This 76ers aren’t tanking because Doug Collins doesn’t want to tank.
While losing a few games right now to improve the team’s chances of landing a top pick in the lottery is, at this moment, the single most consequential thing the franchise can do to improve its long-term prospects, Doug Collins doesn’t care. He doesn’t care because Doug Collins is a man of principle. He doesn’t like tanking. He plays to win the game. When Doug Collins looks in the mirror every morning, he likes to look at a winner. A handsome winner. So he’s a man who pursues winning at all costs, even when that cost is winning. Unlike unprincipled and unhandsome head coaches like Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers—who unscrupulously oversaw tank jobs that put their respective teams in position to win titles; and then won those titles they’d positioned themselves for—Doug Collins cares too much about the 76ers organization, about the City of Philadelphia, to help it win a championship.
“You know me, right?” Collins told reporters after a March 27 win over the Bucks. “I’ve never quit before I got to the finish line. We’re not going to start that now, and our team doesn’t have that personality. We’re not going to do that. This city and this organization means too much to me and these players.”
You know me, right? I’ve never quit before. Doug Collins cares too much about the way people view Doug Collins to allow himself to be associated with a tank job.
He hasn’t quit. He’s tightened his rotation even. Against Charlotte on Saturday, Jrue Holiday played 41 minutes. Thad Young logged 38. Evan Turner played the fewest minutes of any starter, and he was in for 32. And so the 76ers have won three games in a row and seven of 11. In a little over three weeks, the team has gone from two games off the third-worst record in the NBA—a perch associated with a 15 percent chance of grabbing the draft’s top pick, a 45 percent chance of picking in the top three, and a 96 percent chance of choosing in the top five—to firmly the 11 seed in the lottery. The 11 seed has a 96 percent chance of choosing 11th.
Another thing that gets in the way of Doug Collins ego is math, and so he’s banished that from the organization too. It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, or that they’re having wild success doing it, or what the overwhelming verdict of basketball science is: Doug Collins knows best because he’s Doug Collins. He’s not going to outsource his decision-making, his thinking about the game he’s spent half a century living and breathing, to some nerd with a calculator; some paper pusher who probably wasn’t even a No. 1 overall draft pick, an Olympian, or a four time All-Star.
Doug Collins didn’t care that the numbers (and screamingly obvious common sense) said that Kwame Brown, Nick Young, and Spencer Hawes couldn’t play. He’s paying them $15.5 million this season. He doesn’t have time either for conversations about shot distribution. Does he look like a guy who’s worried about what spreadsheets say about the long jump shots his offense is built around? Yeah right.
Doug Collins doesn’t need science, facts, reason, or even a GM, to help him make basketball decisions. He has his religion. He worships at the altar of himself.