Doug Collins did something unprecedented in his final few months as coach of the Sixers. He rendered his status as a Philadelphia sports hero obsolete. Never again will he be the gritty overachiever who cared so much about winning. Now and forever, he will be the man whose raging ego ruined his legacy.
After a week of shameless public lies about his intentions, Collins finally stepped down last week in one final flurry of self-serving bravado. He prefaced his tribute to himself by saying he had been plotting with his bosses a dignified goodbye, making his nauseating exit yet another spectacular failure in this disgraceful season.
In fact, it is impossible to imagine a less dignified send-off than the one he gave himself. If there were any remaining doubts about his total disconnection from the fans (remember, last month he advised them to pray for Andrew Bynum) they disappeared during his final news conference.
At one point, Collins actually had the audacity to blubber about his loving relationship with the fans, after stonewalling all of their questions for months. Now we have learned — from him, no less —that he had decided to leave last Christmas.
His final words to the city included a detailed recitation of his resume, conveniently omitting the fact that he was a loser here with a 110-120 record. He also emphasized his amazing kinship with his players, none of whom he thought highly enough to confide in his plans to leave. And he actually said he was "always a winner, never a champion."
Always a winner? Was he a winner when he publicly attacked his players for "not breaking a sweat" after one awful loss? Was he a winner when he berated reporter after reporter for asking valid questions about the Bynum disaster? Is he a winner now, with his team 14 games under .500 this season and in far worse shape than when he got here?
Doug Collins thinks he can bamboozle the fans with bluster about his playing days here, about his commitment to the job and his love for Philadelphia. If he did love our city, he wouldn't have spent the final months of his tenure here insulting the fans with his public tantrums and his bold lies.
It is almost impossible for a sports hero in Philadelphia to lose that designation. Allen Iverson is a national embarrassment now, but he still receives standing ovations every time he returns. Lenny Dykstra is in prison, and fans still speak fondly of his playing days here.
Collins managed to soil his legacy in a way even those two pathetic cases didn't. In the end, he didn't respect the fans. Ultimately, he cared only about himself. He left with no class, and with no dignity.
Blame Manuel for this debacle
As the Phillies continue to flounder below .500, a fascinating debate is emerging about whom to blame more for their failures, GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. or manager Charlie Manuel. The correct answer is Manuel — by a wide margin.
Now, I understand that Manuel won the World Series here in 2008, while Amaro was just a front-office assistant, so the folksy skipper still holds the support of a majority of the fans. Philadelphia never stops loving a champion. Just ask the 1973-75 Flyers.
But Manuel is the bigger problem here, as he proved again with some abominable strategy last week. On successive nights late in tie games, Manuel placed the team's fate in the hands of relievers Jeremy Horst and Phillippe Aumont. In both cases, the far better choices — Mike Adams and Jonathan Papelbon, among others — sat in the bullpen until it was too late.
Manuel's explanations for these obvious mistakes were totally illogical. He said he was "getting concerned" about how much Adams was being used, although the set-up specialist had pitched exactly six innings in the previous two weeks. Papelbon is used only in save situations, then he entered a game two nights later with the Phillies one run behind and holding a four-run lead on Sunday.
Amaro did his job. He provided Manuel with two of the best late-inning relievers in baseball, but Adams and Papelbon can fill their roles only if the manager uses them.
Charlie Manuel should have been fired a year ago, after his 102-win team lost in the first round of the playoffs because of strategic blunders. If you really want to blame Amaro, rip him because he hasn't had the courage to get rid of his beloved — and overrated — manager.
NFL thinks 2013 Eagles stink
There was no press release or news conference, but the NFL made a bold statement last week about the 2013 Eagles: They stink.
This appraisal was hidden in the new schedule, which has jarred the Birds back to their Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time days before Andy Reid. In the first season under Chip Kelly, the Eagles are slated to play only two night games, and those are in the first 11 days of the season. Barring a late flex-schedule change, the Birds will not appear in the marquee Sunday night game.
What the NFL is saying here is obvious. The debut of Kelly and his newfangled brand of football is worthy of attention; hence, the Monday night opener in Washington. And Reid's homecoming in week three deserves a Thursday-night stage. After that, forget it.
Unintentionally, the NFL appears to have done Kelly and his new team a huge favor. Facing the Redskins and a still-gimpy Robert Griffin III in the opener is a gift, followed by winnable games against the Chargers and Chiefs. Is it ridiculous to think the Birds could be 3-0 on Sept. 22? And even if they're 2-1, can you imagine how much that start will help Kelly's players to believe in the new system?
Even before the draft, it is becoming obvious that the Eagles will be better than the pundits believe. Kelly's refreshing new approach — fast-paced practices, shuffled locker assignments, custom-made smoothies — is already providing some genuine hope after the drudgery of Reid's final years.
Here's my first prediction of the Chip Kelly era: Despite the new schedule, the Eagles will not stink in 2013.
Idle thoughts from Cataldi
» It's a new season and a new coach, but the same old Mike Vick. The quarterback declared last week that the Eagles are "still my team." Unfortunately, "his team" was 4-12 last year because he couldn't stop throwing interceptions or getting hurt. The worst thing that could happen this season is for it to be "his team" again.
» Marcus Vick, Mike's hilariously clueless brother, resurfaced on Twitter last week with some homophobic remarks directed at the Arizona Cardinals. Am I the only one who will miss Marcus more than Mike when they both finally leave?
» The Flyers will end one of the worst seasons in their history this weekend. So who goes first? If it were up to me, it would be GM Paul Holmgren, followed by goalie Ilya Bryzgalov and then coach Peter Laviolette. If all three are back next season, the Flyers can expect to miss the playoffs again in 2014.
» Jonathan Papelbon used the Boston Marathon tragedy to spout his views on gun control. Hey, I happen to like the Phillies closer. I'm just more comfortable when he's throwing a 95-mile-per hour fastball than when he's using the pitching mound as a pulpit for his political views. That's all I'm saying.
» Confronted by reporters at the Doug Collins' goodbye news conference, perennial NBA bust Kwame Brown — the lazy Sixer center who made $3 million for doing nothing this season — literally sprinted for the exits to elude their questions. Who said the big lug never hustles?