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The Sixers and Their Coaches in the Last Decade: It's Not You. It's Me.

I want to know what love is. I want you to show me. I want to feel what love is. I know you can show me.

It's over. Time to defriend them on Facebook, Sixers.
It's over. Time to defriend them on Facebook, Sixers.
Andy Reid's Waistline

Doug Collins resigned the other day.

Staring in the face of another season with this ragtag roster, Doug threw his hands up to the basketball heavens and pleaded, "No mas!" According to reports, Collins has known for a few months that he would quit at season's end. And I imagine it was a sudden revelation, too, like the moment you discover that you're just too old to shop at Urban Outfitters.

Collins becomes another coach in a little black book of coaches that the Sixers have dated and subsequently broke-up with since the Larry Brown Era (LBE). It's a promiscuous little organization, these Sixers, who have floozed their way through coaches like a college kid in Cancun.

The Sixers have dumped coaches (Eddie Jordan, Jim O'Brien). They've been dumped (Larry Brown, Doug Collins). And, in true Sixers fashion, they've remained friends with benefits with another.

"You're back together with Tony?"

Nah, we're just hangin' out.

Before we send the Sixers off to get tested (play safe, y'all), let's look back at the Sixers' coaches since the Larry Brown Era and ask, to quote Noel Gallagher, "Where did it all go wrong?"

Randy Ayers (2003-2004)

Time As Head Coach: Less than one season

Record: 21-31

Last Game: A 99-87 loss to New Jersey

Ayers lasted 52 games here as head coach. An assistant under Larry Brown, Ayers was appointed to the position after Brown left the Sixers for greener pastures. Brown had/has the tendency of leaving franchises with middling and aging rosters - the coaching equivalent of borrowing someone's car and returning it with the gas tank on E.

"The gas light just went on when I pulled into the driveway. I swear. I'll be in Detroit if you need me."

Brown, Iverson, and co. did will the Sixers to Eastern Conference Semis the year before, so a 21-31 record is certainly not what the Sixers brass envisioned when Randy took over. The Ayers Era was riddled with drama and cattiness. Iverson said the team lacked heart. Glenn Robinson griped about playing time, and Kenny Thomas openly complained about not getting another fifteen years added to his existing 23-year contract.

What would've Eddie Jordan done differently?

I'd run the Princeton offense, baby. Where is the movement? The screens? The '03-'04 Sixers just stood around with their hands in their pockets and stared at each other. Is this a junior high dance? Hey oh! I'd a played that Willie Green cat, and run him off some picks. You can't spell ‘Princeton' without ‘ton,' and we would've scored by the bushel, baby! Bada bing, bada boom! EJ out.

Chris Ford (2004)

Time As Head Coach: Less than one season

Record: 12-18

Last Game: A 95-89 loss at Orlando

Despite taking over a Sixers team that was ten games under .500, Chris Ford found himself just a 1 ½ games behind Boston for the final playoff spot. Sounds familiar, huh? Wash, Rinse. I'd like you to meet, Repeat.

Chris Ford was a former NBA coach, most notably leading the Celtics to some pretty decent seasons in the 1990s. But an aging Larry Bird and Kevin McHale weren't walking through that - etc, etc, etc. The '03-'04 Sixers outfit was broken. All the Marc Jackson hard fouls in the world couldn't save this season, but, god love ‘em, Marc tried.

Ford was just a place holder. A thick mustachioed placeholder, but a placeholder nonetheless. The Sixers recorded just a .400 winning percentage under his tutelage.

What would've Doug Moe done differently?

Listen here. I would've done two things.

First off, get rid of all the forwards and centers. Don't need ‘em. Don't like ‘em. Never cared for ‘em. They're just weighing you down, like bulky car keys in the pocket of cargo shorts. Here's the line-up I would have used:

G: Eric Snow

G Allen Iverson

G: Willie Green

G: Aaron McKie

G: John Salmons

Ain't she a beaut? Now push the tempo. Push the basketball. Never bring a tortoise to a greyhound race.

I'd also watch more film. It's all about the film. You got to dedicate yourself to more film study. In fact, I got a few recommendations for you.

Air Up There: A wonderful little flick starring Kevin Bacon as a college basketball coach recruiting ‘the next big thing' in Africa. Throughout his journey, Bacon begins to realize what really matters in life. Dougy Moe gives it 3 out of 4 stars.

Coach Carter : Samuel L. Jackson was terrific as Coach Carter, a basketball coach who touched his students' lives ON and OFF the court. A story of determination and team work. Dougy Moe gives it 3 ½ out of 4 stars.

Air Bud: A coming of age story about a boy and his basketball-playing dog. The characters would melt the coldest of hearts. Dougy Moe gives it 4 out of 4 stars.

Jim O'Brien (2004-2005)

Time As Head Coach: 1 season

Record: 43-39

Last Game: An 88-78 loss to Detroit in the first round of the playoffs

Like Ford, Jim O'Brien also came over from the Boston Celtics. O'Brien was the head coach of the C's during that horrific Celtics/Sixers series in 2002, which saw Antoine Walker and Paul Pierce knock down roughly 613 three pointers in five games.

A quick aside.

I attended Game 3 with my buddy. The Sixers won that day to extend the series, but that didn't stop ‘Toine from shoulder shimmying around the court like it was Studio 54. I vowed to my friend between bites of nachos that I would go down there and stop Walker myself. And I would have, too, if it wasn't for those pesky ushers.

Graded on results alone, O'Brien was fired unjustly; and his departure certainly came under scrutiny. The Sixers enjoyed a ten win improvement under O'Brien from the previous season, but it was ultimately creative differences between O'Brien and Billy King that led to his firing. From a May 24th, 2005 article by Joe Juliano from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

But in evaluating the season, King said he didn't think the Sixers were heading in the right direction. He had a problem with the team's style of play, which included reliance on the three-point basket and a defense that protected the paint but had trouble getting out on perimeter shooters.

O'Brien also had a notable falling out with Chris Webber, who hopped his way from Sacramento to Philadelphia on one leg. The commute took about seven months. From a USA Today article by the AP in 2008:

O'Brien, now in his first year coaching Indiana, was fired after only one season in Philadelphia. Webber played 21 games for the Sixers that year, but rarely hid his distaste about playing for O'Brien. The pair clashed almost from the beginning, and Webber called the final 21 games "timeout times 50," a reference to his infamous gaffe at Michigan in the 1993 national championship game.


"He said, 'Coach, I don't do the low-post thing anymore,"' O'Brien recalled. "We just made a major trade to bring in this 6-11 guy and he said, 'No.' I said, 'Yes, you do."'

O'Brien was informed of his firing shortly after the first round playoff loss.

What would've Doug Collins done differently?

I'll tell you what I would've done. For starters, I would've told my team to step inside the three point line. What is this, Mardi Gras?

Secondly, I would've opened up the lines of communication. There was obviously some discord here between the players and the coach. How about a late night text, Jim? It doesn't have to be fancy - just something small. Let the team know you're thinking of ‘em. Try this.

"Hey C-Webb. How wuz the hop in? :) lol What r ur thoughts on playing in the low-post?"

And who is this Samuel Dalembert guy? Why was he on the court? He was 23 in 2005. Talk to me in eight years when he has a little experience under his belt.

Mo Cheeks (2005-2008)

Time As Head Coach: 3 plus seasons

Record: 122-147

Last Game: An 88-72 loss to the Cavs

Maurice "Mo" Cheeks is our most tenured coach on this list. Mo was hired instantly after the O'Brien firing under the time-tested, "Philadelphia Guy Comes Home" narrative. A narrative, I might add, that has spawned many sequels:

Welcome Home, Stefanski (It's a Philly Thing!)

Homeward Bound: Welcome to the Doug House

Perhaps Cheeks' most notable season at the helm was the 2006-2007 season, which featured the trading of Allen Iverson and, later, the most egregious example of playing for Pride in the last 500 years. The Sixers courageously went 31-2 in their last 33 games and played themselves right out of the Kevin Durant Sweepstakes. I've seen Satan. I've looked into his eyes, and thy name is ‘Andre.'

But, surprisingly, the Sixers didn't build off this late season momentum. I thought that winning meaningless games in March and April would have propelled the Sixers to a #4 seed the following season - thanks to their two big free agent off-season pick-ups: Continuity and Chemistry. Yet, the Sixers stumbled to a 40-42 record and another first-round loss to the Pistons.

Cheeks' last season with the club saw the arrival of Elton Brand and his busty contract. But the Old Chevy sputtered out of the gate/got injured, and after a 12-18 record, Cheeks was relieved of his duties.

What would've John Lucas done differently?

Before I answer this, let me respond with a question.

Why was Andre Miller on the court? If you guys were playing in Charlotte, I would've sent him on a charter flight to Milwaukee. He and Joe Smith torpedoed your tanking efforts. Were they on the take from Boston? Was this some sort of espionage coup? Did Joe Smith have a few anonymous financial benefactors in Oklahoma City?

Look at my last year as Sixers coach. We went 18-64 in '95-‘96. By April, we were starting Rex Walters, Derrick Alston, and LaSalle Thompson. That team wouldn't have finished in the top half of the Sun Belt. Sometime in the spring, we had locked Jerry Stackhouse in the closet of a Hampton Inn somewhere outside Atlanta. Was it drastic? Sure, but we provided him with plenty of water and non-perishables so it was fine really.

That decision paid dividends when Trevor Ruffin went 5-15 off the bench in Orlando one night. And you know what I did when he came back to the bench after a timeout? I'll tell ya.

I fist pounded Trevor. I told him to keep up the good work.

And you know what I told the media?

"Well, Ruffy had a tough day from the floor today. But he's a shooter, and I want him to keep shooting. He's trying to find his stroke right now. It's a process. And he's a pro. He's gonna keep working at it."

Two months later, we drafted Allen Iverson #1 overall. Easy, peasy, beautiful cover girl.

Oh, I got fired after the season; but that's not the question you asked.

Tony DiLeo (2008-2009)

Time As Head Coach: Less than one season

Record: 32-27

Last Game: A 114-89 loss to Orlando in the playoffs

Having been with the organization since the early 1990s in a wide variety of roles, Tony DiLeo was promoted to the head coaching position following Cheeks' dismissal. And the Sixers seemed to rally behind their vanilla, monotone coach.

What DiLeo lacked in charisma, he made up for in capital letters. The DiLeo-led Sixers scratched their way to a .500 record and battled with Orlando in an entertaining 6-game series. Along with some Game 1 heroics by Andre Iguodala and Donyell Marshall, series intrigue was created by a verbal spat between DiLeo and Stan Van Gundy.

DiLeo suggested that Dwight Howard spent far too much time socializing in the lane. Van Gundy's response was included in the Orlando Sentinel:

Van Gundy came in and opened up his interview session by asking if he should talk about the game or if he should "start lobbying for some calls too".

Another SVG gem: "I guess that's the only reason Dwight is having success in this series, has nothing to do with the fact that he's good."

DiLeo - never one to back down from a confrontation - took to the comment section of that same Orlando Sentinel website on Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 11:58 PM.

wish you people would quit picking on me. I might have to suck my thumb vigorously and wet mt [sic] breeches otherwise. Thank you.

Posted by: Tony DiLeo | Tuesday, April 28, 2009 at 11:58 PM

Who knew Tony read the Orlando Sentinel?

After a humiliating Game 6 loss in Philly (I was there. It was awful), DiLeo pulled his name out of the running for head coach.

What would've Larry Brown done differently?

I would've played the right way.

That's it? Anything else, Larry?

Was George Lynch available in 2009?

Eddie Jordan (2009-2010)

Time As Head Coach: 1 season

Record: 27-55

Last Game: A 125-111 loss to Orlando

The worst of the worst.

Basketball-Reference says that the Sixers attracted 583,000 + fans that season. Now, let me take a moment and do some quick math here ... 4,000 x 41 ... carry the one. Yeah, that's about right. About 583,000 fans.

If memory serves, the Sixers installed microphones on the rims that year, so the only sound you could hear from the Wachovia Center was a Willie Green missed 18 footer. I mean, it wasn't enough to have to watch a Willie jumper clank off the rim. But you had to hear it now, too. The 2009-2010 Sixers assaulted all your senses.

Eddie Jordan shoehorned the Sixers into his Princeton Offense; an offense that had a reception akin to an Adam Eaton Mayoral run.

"Vote 4 Eaton. I won 10 games in 2007. (Ignore my 6.29 ERA - I pitched to the score)"

The Sixers also brought back Allen Iverson for an ill-fated comeback. Or so I'm told. Now, I don't remember this return personally. I paid a lot of money for this little reunion tour to be erased from my memory, ala Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. The Iverson move reeked of desperation, like putting some Neosporin on gangrene.

The Sixers were 5-15 at the time and quickly fading into obscurity. Players had already begun tuning Jordan out. From about December through spring, the only song I listened to was Jewel's "Who Will Save Your Soul." Partly because I like it. Partly because it summed up my feelings about the Eddie Jordan Era.

What would've Billy Cunningham done differently?

Just about everything. I had a .698 career winning % for Pete's sake.

Doug Collins (2010-2013)

Time As Head Coach: 3 seasons

Record: 110-120

Last Game: A 105-95 win over the Pacers

My reception towards Collins' hiring in 2010 was lukewarm. It was hard to discern Collins from the 'retread' label that is stamped on just about every semi-active coach not named Phil Jackson.

But Collins was a former Sixer, which made him 85% more likely to get the head coaching job. And if history has taught us anything, it's that this organization in particular loves their former players and local guys. Now, I don't feel the need to hire some coach or GM just because he grew up a few blocks from the Palestra and vacations with his family in north Wildwood.

"My neighbor, Bob, just gets it. He knows the city. He know how much the Sixers fans crave a winner. I saw him at Keenan's last Saturday - he's excited for the challenges ahead."

Undoubtedly, Collins' biggest success here came last year, when the Sixers knocked off the Limpin' Bulls and pushed the hated Celtics to 7 games. And while I don't think Red Auerbach or even Gordon Bombay could've salvaged this season, Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors from a PR perspective.

So while a worn-out Doug Collins settles into his cushy 'consulting' role, the Sixers now begin the search for their 8th coach in ten years.

NBA Basketball Team seeks head coach for committed, long-term relationship. We've kissed a lot of frogs over the year, and now are looking for our prince. Seeking coach who can thrive with suspect roster and Spencer Hawes' mid-range game.

*** Special thanks to the very talented, John, for the photo shop picture. Be sure to follow John on Twitter at @PhilaticalArt ***

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