PHILADELPHIA— Doug Collins walked off the Wells Fargo Center court a winner for the final time in his 76ers coaching career.
Collins won’t be back for a fourth season.
Dorell Wright scored 15 points and Thaddeus Young had 14 points and nine rebounds to lead the Sixers to a 91-77 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday.
With the team missing the playoffs, Collins’ future had become the focal point.
But The Associated Press, ESPN and Yahoo! Sports reported after the game that anonymous sources said Collins told the team he will not return next season as coach.
There was no immediate word if Collins, owed $4.5 million in the last year of his contract, would remain with the franchise in some capacity.
Team president Rod Thorn already was set to step aside after this season, leaving open the possibility Collins assumes greater front office control.
With the franchise in decline after the Andrew Bynum trade was a massive flop, Collins decided he wanted no part of what could be a long rebuilding effort.
The Sixers are 33-47 and in ninth place in the Eastern Conference a year after they won 35 games and a round in the playoffs in last year’s lockout-shortened season. The Sixers finish out the season today in Detroit and Wednesday in Indiana.
Team owner Joshua Harris, who did not immediately respond to emails Sunday night, was scheduled to meet with the media on Thursday.
The Sixers picked up the option on Collins’ contract for the 2013-14 season in training camp and he said then he wanted to remain with the organization in some capacity when his coaching career is over. Collins has refused in the last week to discuss next season, and said he would discuss only the home finale because, “everything else is moot.”
Collins, a four-time All-Star with the Sixers, returned to the franchise in 2010 and led them to the playoffs in each of his first two seasons.
After falling one win shy of advancing to the Eastern Conference finals last season, the Sixers shook up the roster and made the bold move to acquire Bynum.
Bynum never played for the Sixers because of bone bruises in both knees. He insisted from training camp he would play this season, only to shut it down for good on March 18 and undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery on both knees. Bynum earned $16.5 million this season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Collins' decision to step down, first reported by Yahoo Sports, came out only hours after his agent told reporters Collins would return next season.
“He’s here for another year, at least,” agent John Langel said. “He’s the coach and we’ll see what happens.”
There was no immediate word when he notified his players. No Sixer indicated in the postgame locker room that Collins was leaving.
Hall of Famer Julius Erving, a former Sixers great and team adviser, said before Sunday’s win over Cleveland that the Sixers needed to keep Collins.
“The organization can ill-afford to have Doug walk away,” Erving said. “You’re not going to get a better coach or a better teacher.”
Collins refused to discuss his job status on Sunday.
“We’re really in a bit of a hole,” said Erving, who was honored along with the rest of the 1983 NBA championship team at halftime. “It’s almost like starting all over.”
Bynum last talked to the media March 1 and said he would not play in pain or be pressured into playing and risking a potential nine-figure payday. Erving, a Hall of Famer, said the organization should be wary about getting back in business with Bynum.
“The net result is (Celtics great) Robert Parrish’s old number: Zero zero,” Erving said. “We have not benefited one degree. I guess he has.”
Dr. J added: “It’s going to be costly if the Bynum situation is one of total uncertainty for another year. I don’t think the organization should stand for that and I don’t think the fans are going to stand for that.”
With the season down to the final days, Collins lamented how the Bynum deal backfired — and could have repercussions for years to come.
“I’d give (owner) Josh (Harris) and our organization a lot of credit. They swung for the fences,” Collins said. “Unfortunately, with Andrew getting hurt ... it changed the whole dynamic of our season.”