Throughout Collins' career he's gained the reputation as a "miracle man" of sorts. The three teams he's taken over (Chicago in '86, Detroit in '95 and Washington in '01) have improved their win total by an average of 15 games, and their defensive efficiency ranking by an average of 14 in Collins first season.
In Collins' first year with Chicago the team improved from 30 wins the year before to 40, and went from being dead-last in team defense to 11th overall. It's worth nothing that Michael Jordan only appeared in 18 games the year before, compared to a full 82 the year Collins arrived.
In Collins' first year with Detroit the team improved from 28 wins the year before to 46, and went from being dead-last in team defense to seventh overall. The roster upgrade in Detroit wasn't nearly as significant as 64 more games of Michael Jordan, but they added Theo Ratliff and Otis Thorpe defensively, and enjoyed the development of a second-year Grant Hill and third-year Allan Houston.
In Collins' first year with Washington the team improved from 19 wins the year before to 37, and went from being dead-last in team defense to 21st overall. The only players they added were 38 year-old MJ, Brendan Haywood and Kwame Brown.
The win totals and defensive improvements are impressive, but how much credit Collins actually deserves is difficult to gauge.
Can he transform Sixers -- a team who won 27 games a year ago -- into a defensive-minded, tough, hard-working team? Maybe, maybe not, but anything he does is guaranteed to look like gold compared to the mess Eddie Jordan made.
Does he still have it?
Collins also has the reputation of fielding good defensive teams, and rightfully so. His three years in Chicago the team ranked 11th, 3rd and 11th in team defense. His three years in Detroit the team ranked 7th, 11th and 9th in team defense. However; his latest stop in Washington, his team ranked 21st and 18th during his two-year tenure.
The Wizards' poor defensive performances under Collins can be credited to the roster - who ranked dead-last the year prior to Collins - but the three years after Collins, none other than Eddie Jordan had the Wizards ranked 20th, 19th and 22nd in defensive efficiency.
Collins has been out of the league for seven years, and it's been 13 since he's had a team rank in the top half of the league defensively. The Sixers ranked 24th in team defense last season. Does he have the pieces and/or ability to turn them into a top 15 defensive team in 10-11?
Good news for Jrue, Turner and Iguodala?
Throughout Collins career he's had the privilege of coaching star perimeter players early in their careers, like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Grant Hill, and some good ones like Allan Houston and Rip Hamilton. These players have something in common: they all saw improvements in their individual defense under Collins. (Pippen began his career under Collins so there are no prior years to compare. )
Jordan saw his DRtg (defensive rating) improve from 107 to 104 and his DWS (defensive win shares) improve from 3.7 to 5.0 his first year under Collins. Hill went from a 111 DRtg to a 102 rating, and upped his DWS from 1.8 to 5.7. Houston went from a 116 DRtg to a 108 rating and raised his DWS from 0.3 to 3.0. Hamilton's DRtg remained at 111, but his DWS multiplied by six, going from 0.1 to 0.6. (Hamilton is the exception because his D improved significantly after Collins.)
Lindsey Hunter also emerged as a solid NBA defender under Collins.
Much like the improvement in win totals and team defense, different variables go into the improvements of these players' individual defense. One could make the case that these guys were good defenders to begin with, improved organically, and coincidentally had their breakout defensive seasons under Collins. Again, it's difficult to estimate how much credit Collins deserves.
But based on his history it comes as no surprise that Collins chose to coach a team with three young perimeter players - each with an abundance of defensive potential. Jrue is coming off a rookie year where he showed flashes of defensive brilliance and lockdown man-to-man defense. Turner is a big, physical two-guard who showed promise on the defensive end in college. And Andre Iguodala has already established himself as a borderline-elite defender.
If Collins has any chance of turning the Sixers into an above average defensive team it has to start with his three wings. It'll be interesting to see how their individual defense develops in year one under Collins and throughout his contract.
For future reference here are the (DRtg, dMULT)* and DWS for Jrue and Andre last year ...
Jrue: 106.4 DRtg, 1.149 dMULT, 1.0 DWS
Andre: 104.7 DRtg, 0.910 dMULT, 2.8 DWS
*From Basketball Prospectus
Grant Hill was coached by Collins during his second, third and fourth seasons, and played arguably the best basketball of his career under Collins in 96-97. Read what Grant Hill said about Collins when he was hired by the Sixers. He gives Doug a lot of credit for turning him into both the person and player he is today.
"With Doug, they'll be prepared, they'll be in great shape. He's an unbelievable motivator. He'll get them to play. It wouldn't surprise me if they're a playoff team next year ... Doug teaches you to be a professional."
The deeper we delve into the off-season the longer I have to ponder the Collins hiring and the upcoming season, and the more I think about it the more perfect the fit becomes. After last season's debacle this team is in desperate need of a leader, a motivator and a teacher. With Collins, they should be getting just that. Let's just hope the "miracle man" has some magic left.
All stats from Basketball Reference*