Sixers CEO Adam Aron has not been asked yet for a vote of confidence regarding the future of coach Doug Collins, although his tweet in the wake of the team’s titanic meltdown last week in Denver serves as a pretty solid indication that there is a high level of dissatisfaction in the executive suite.
Aron took to the social media world after the Sixers turned a five-point lead into a one-point loss in a matter of 10 seconds. His sentiments were direct and unvarnished:
That was the worst last minute of 76ers basketball I’ve seen in ages. Mind-numbingly bad.
— Adam Aron (@SixersCEOAdam) March 22, 2013
It’s impossible to argue with Aron’s assessment. The Sixers descended into Bobcatsland with the choke job, and anyone still watching the team had to be absolutely flabbergasted that even they could blow things so badly.
But Aron shouldn’t have gone to Twitter to express his frustration, especially after everything that has happened this season and the role he and owner Joshua Harris have played in the team’s demise. NBA owners don’t spend a lot of time lamenting losses on social media, so his decision to weigh in made news and led to some questions about whom he and Harris are blaming for the lost season.
If it’s Collins, shame on the dynamic duo, because while he has no doubt ground down many of the players with his incessant micromanagement, he was not the one who signed on to the Andrew Bynum deal, despite the protestations of several team doctors who knew the center’s knees were not going to withstand a season—or, in Bynum’s case, a minute—of NBA play. That was the choice of Aron and Harris, who, eager to put a bright face on the franchise after last year’s exciting post-season, took a huge risk by trading for Bynum and then selling him to the town as the man who would help the Sixers climb near the top of the weak Eastern Conference.
Blaming Collins for this year is a huge mistake. Granted, he is a tough man for whom to play. When he was hired, you might remember that I praised the decision but also issued a caveat, based on an interview with an NBA GM. Collins, I said, could be a “pain in the ass.” The GM explained why.
“He’s a prima donna. He’s high maintenance, and he will drive everybody crazy,” he said. “But when he gets into the gym and closes the doors, there’s nobody who does a better job.”
The same GM told me after last season that Collins would have been fired had the Bucks not imploded and handed the Sixers the eighth spot in the playoffs. The players were sick of him and had headed into the tank. But since everybody plays hard in the post-season, and since Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah suffered injuries in Chicago’s playoff series with the Sixers, the home team moved on, had a fun spring and gave city pro basketball fans a smile. It was impossible to can Collins then.
If Aron and Harris want to blame the 2012-13 season on somebody other than themselves, it makes sense that they would choose Collins. Forget the fact that he was given a team of jump shooters that was supposed to benefit from double teams sent to stop Bynum, even though the bosses were told the center was severely damaged goods. Collins doesn’t deserve to go because of a poor front-office philosophy. Maybe he has lost the players. Maybe he is spending too much time on the small things. But all he is doing is trying to squeeze every possible win out of a highly imperfect team.
It cannot be overstated that the ’12-13 season was doomed from its outset by the mistaken thought that Bynum was the answer in the middle. Even if he were healthy, there was still the matter of his rotten attitude, which includes equal parts selfishness, immaturity and a lack of dedication. Bynum was a bad idea, and the Sixers may have done considerable damage to the franchise by bringing him to town. (And, by the way, if Harris and Aron commit one more dollar on him, there ought to be a fan revolt.)
As the season enters its final few weeks—thank God—Collins’ job should not be a topic of discussion. He demands accountability from his players, knows the game (especially defense) better than many other coaches in the league and is not the reason why this team has played rotten ball this season. If Aron wants to tweet his frustration, he would be wise to direct some it at the front office, which ignored sound medical advice to bring on a damaged player and then build a roster around him. That’s a sin far worse than a wretched 60 seconds of basketball.
• After another poor outing by Roy Halladay Saturday afternoon against a bunch of Toronto bush leaguers, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro sounded like Chip Diller during the Homecoming Parade riot at the end of Animal House. One can almost hear him standing in front of reporters saying, “Remain calm. All is well.” Right. Halladay is not close to the pitcher he was when the Phils acquired him, and if he can’t find a new way to get hitters out, he won’t finish the season.
• Congratulations to Temple and La Salle for their NCAA tournament performances. The Owls’ heartbreaking loss to Indiana Sunday can’t overshadow their great play during the weekend, or the marvelous performance of Khalif Wyatt. The Explorers were even more impressive and head to the Sweet 16 with a real shot to knock off Wichita State. Given the recent Final Four successes of Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason, there’s no reason La Salle should be content with its current lot.
• After I spent a large part of the weekend at the USSR, er, NCAA basketball tournament at the Wells Fargo Center, it’s clear that college sports’ governing body has adopted principles of two propaganda masters, the Soviet Union and Disney Corporation. And that’s not just because only the bourgeoisie were allowed to consume beer on the premises. Non-stop promotional ads ran throughout the games, and real-time scores of other tourney games were nowhere to be found. It’s ridiculous that an organization committed to exploiting the talents of its athletes is trying to convince people that it serves them. The whole experience was antiseptic and contrived—just how the NCAA likes it.
• Let’s hope the Eagles consider everything about West Virginia QB Geno Smith before deciding whether to draft him. If they believe he is the best person available for head coach Chip Kelly’s system, that isn’t good enough. If Kelly doesn’t last here too long, then drafting a player suited for only one kind of attack isn’t a good idea. Any coach would love to have Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, because they are outstanding QBs capable of playing in just about any offense. If the Birds want Smith because he fits Kelly, and not because he’s a superior talent, that would be a huge mistake.