Doug Collins: NBA Coach Of The Year
No matter what he does he will always be known as one of Michael Jordan’s first NBA coaches, the man who couldn’t fulfill Jordan’s potential. Even after he left the NBA’s coaching ranks and joined the broadcast booth, he still couldn’t shake the jaundiced eye of the casual NBA fan, thanks to his inability to take Jordan and those young but talented late 80’s Bulls teams to the peak of their ability.
In a lot of ways, Collins’ coaching career is reflected in the success of the Sixers and how they win; without much fanfare. Using the same core group of players who won 27 games two years ago and leading them to 10 wins in 13 games speaks of his ability as a coach, though not many people seem to notice.
He has been a perennial “setup man” for NBA teams on the verge of becoming winners. In 10 years as an NBA coach of four NBA teams he has led his team to the playoffs six times.
After leading the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in 1988-89, he was fired and Phil Jackson led the Bulls to his first title two years later. In 96-97 he led the Pistons to a 54 win season, third most in franchise history at the time but was fired after two and a half seasons. Five years later, the Pistons won the title. Collins’ success in Washington was limited, but two years after leaving the Wizards made the playoffs four straight seasons.
Doug Collins has been an underrated coach throughout his entire career. Until, maybe now.
Surrounded by a nucleus of young players, he is developing what he has at his disposal into a surprising winner. At 10-3 the 76ers lead the Atlantic Division by four games, the largest by any division leader in the NBA. What’s cool about how Collins has turned Philly into a winner is that it flies in the face of the current version of “conventional NBA knowledge.” IE, they aren’t led by one big name stud; outside of Andre Iguodala, the average NBA fan outside of Philly would have a difficult time naming a starter.
Collins employs an eight man rotation- and not just playing eight guys irregularly- eight players play at least 24 minutes per game. The team’s leading scorer, Lou Williams averages 16.2 ppg in 25.1 mpg and doesn’t even start. Playing so many guys keeps the team fresh on offense (100.8 ppg is third highest in NBA) and on defense (85.8 ppg allowed is second lowest in NBA).
The reason they win is why you never hear about them- they play like a team. And for the LeBron and Kobe centric likes of ESPN, that isn’t what sells. But considering how they ended last season, losing a five game series to the Heat by a narrow margin (three losses by eight points or less) even though they were completely overmatched, the hot start shouldn’t be a surprise.
Amazingly, we are already a quarter of the way thru the season. If the playoffs started today, the 76ers would be the #2 seed. Doug Collins for coach of the year, anyone? It’s hard to argue.
Image Credit: Keith Allison