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“I told the guys ‘Now, we’re in the high rent district,’ ” Collins said. “Now, you start really finding out what it’s all about. To watch the joy they had in that locker room after the game was something I’ll never forget.”

Their second-round opponent, the Boston Celtics, is a heavy favorite to end the Sixers’ improbable run and leads the series 1-0 entering Game 2 on Monday night. Collins, though, remains unfazed. It’s something he’s learned over time.

“I’ve had my experiences as an athlete, and I’m not in this for me,” Collins said.

“I’m almost 61 years old, and I’m in it to try to just impart some things to the young guys and make them understand what this business is all about, to be professional on a daily basis.”

Collins said returning the Sixers to relevancy is just one step in a journey he began since his return to Philadelphia last year.

“There’s a lot of ways to be relevant. It can be through winning, through the behind-the-scenes building of an organization that I think is one of the proudest in the NBA.

“That’s one of the things I try to do — plant seeds and nurture, and hope that through the tough times, those moments will cary you, and make you stronger on the other side.”