Doug Collins success as a first year as head coach has been well-documented. Prior to this this season, he had taken over three teams during his career: the '86 Bulls, '95 Pistons and '01 Wizards. Each team Collins inherited finished dead last in defensive efficiency the previous season, and averaged around 26 total wins. During Collins' first season each team improved significantly, to a tune of 15 wins and 13 spots in overall defensive efficiency.
The trend continued in 2010, when Collins took over the Philadelphia 76ers – a team coming off a 27-win season, where they ranked 26th in overall defensive efficiency. Under his tutelage the Sixers managed 14 more wins, an improvement from 26th to seventh in defense, and a playoff birth to boot.
Unfortunately Collins has also developed a reputation of "being too intense" and eventually "wearing out his welcome". Both accusations may or may not be true, but it's worth noting that Collins has never lasted longer than three seasons with one franchise. He has previously stated that he's wiser now, learning from his mistakes, and prepared for the long haul in Philadelphia. Whether he's a changed man remains to be seen since it's still fairly early in the Collins era. The bigger question is – we all know about the improvements from Collins-led teams in year one but – have Collins' teams continued to improve in year two? Regressed? Remained the same?
In his second season with Chicago the Bulls improved from 40 wins to 50, and 11th in defense to third. In his second season with Detroit the Pistons improved from 46 wins to 54, but regressed from seventh to 11th in defense. And in his second season in Washington the Wizards they duplicated their previous 37-win mark and improved marginally in defense, moving up from 21st to 19th.
Despite the probability that the Sixers overachieved in year one under Collins, history suggests they won't regress in 2011-2012. It also doesn't hurt that six of the eight Sixers who played the most minutes this past season are 24 years old or younger – most of whose stock is on the rise.
Of course a lot of the Sixers' record in '11-'12 will depend on what happens with Andre Iguodala and Thaddeus Young this summer. Then again, I never thought the Sixers would be +14 in the win column and +19 in defense despite losing their defensive anchor in Sam Dalembert, but Collins made it happen.