"It's not you, Doug, it's us."
According to a report from Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Sixers are privately hoping that Collins decides to step down instead of finishing out the final year of his contract in 2013-14.
Even if Collins returns as the head coach in 2013-14, a NBA source told Ford that "whatever happens, there isn't going to be a contract extension."
As much fun as a lame-duck season for Collins sounds, it's only best if the two sides decide to part this summer, whether Collins steps down or gets fired.
With the team careening toward a rebuilding era, Collins is no longer the right man for the job.
In Collins' previous three stints as a head coach with the Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards, he never made it past a third season. As it so happens, he's about to finish out his third year as coach of the 76ers.
It's not that Collins is a terrible coach, per se. Compared to the one-year Eddie Jordan Sixers era, when the team limped its way to a 27-55 record in no small part due to Jordan's nonsensical rotations, Collins has been a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
In his first year with the Sixers, Collins guided the team to a 41-41 record. The next year, in the lockout-shortened season, the 35-31 Sixers made their first appearance in the Eastern Conference semifinals since the heyday of Allen Iverson, falling one game short of a berth in the conference finals.
Due to injuries and mediocre play, Collins ended up having to rotate between three different starting centers on a game-by-game basis (Spencer Hawes and two rookies, Lavoy Allen and Nikola Vucevic) in the 2011-12 season. Despite that, the Sixers ranked third in the league in defensive rating that year, allowing opponents to score only 99.2 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball Reference.
The 2011-12 Sixers proved that Collins is still capable of coaching a veteran-laden roster effectively.
The 2012-13 Sixers proved why Collins can't be trusted with a rebuilding process.
The season-long failure of this year's squad can't entirely be pinned on Collins, of course. The season was effectively over the second that Andrew Bynum decided to go on his ill-fated bowling trip.
Without Bynum anchoring the post, the Sixers' inside-outside game suddenly lacked an inside. Hawes and Kwame Brown aren't talented enough offensively to command double-teams, which allowed opponents to devote more defensive attention to Philly's perimeter players.
None of this is Collins' fault. He's presumably not the one who told Bynum to go bowling while rehabbing an already injured knee.
Collins did have the opportunity to mitigate the fallout from Bynum's season-long absence, however, and he failed magnificently at that.
It's never been as obvious as it has in the final few weeks of the Sixers' season, when Collins went on an anti-tanking crusade to end all anti-tanking crusades.
"You know me, right? 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. They're young guys. They’re trying to build a nucleus here. They know what they have going into next year and what has to be done to make this right."
Let's ignore for a second that the Sixers were all but mathematically eliminated from the playoffs when he dropped that gem. As Tom Sunnergren of Hoop76 noted, Collins only tightened his rotation heading into April, playing guys like Damien Wilkins for nearly 30 minutes per game.
Meanwhile, he left Arnett Moultrie, the Sixers' lone remaining 2012 first-round pick, to languish on the bench. With absolutely nothing left to play for besides intangibles like "pride," Moultrie is averaging 13.6 minutes per game in April.
If the Moultrie situation were an anomaly, that would be one thing. But Vucevic, who just became the first player in Orlando Magic history to finish with at least 30 points, 20 rebounds and five assists in a single game, was buried on Collins' bench last year, too.
Even Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2010, struggled to earn a consistent role in the Sixers' lineup for his first two seasons with the team.
It may be easier to win with veterans than younger players, but that's not the way to develop a team. Collins has consistently sacrificed the long-term health of the Sixers in favor of a short-term perspective.
The Sixers can't afford a coach with a short-term view if Bynum walks this summer. Unless they're miraculously able to sign-and-trade Bynum, they'll be the definition of a rebuilding team for at least the next season or two.
That seems to be lost upon the Sixers coach.
"If you look at the draft this year, is there a knockout difference between [picks] one and eight?" Collins said on April 8, according to John Mitchell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Is there that one guy that anyone would be tanking for?"
Is there a knockout difference between Nerlens Noel, who ESPN's Chad Ford projects as the No. 1 overall pick (subscription required), and Alex Len, the player who goes No. 8 in Ford's first mock draft of the year?
Absolutely, unequivocally, yes.
Thanks to the Bynum fiasco, the Sixers likely aren't going to be contenders in the Eastern Conference for the next few years. The only hope to turn around the team's fortunes is to stockpile assets like they're Doomsday Preppers.
Collins doesn't appear ready or willing to coach a team through a rebuilding process.
That, more than anything, is why the Sixers and Collins need to part ways after this season.