All signs point to the Sixers hiring Doug Collins as their next head coach fairly soon. A source close to the situation claims the two have begun contract negotiations. As excited as I am about the number two pick and the possibility of drafting Evan Turner, I'm equally as disappointed Collins will be the Sixers next head coach.
Make no mistake, the Sixers could do worse than Doug Collins, but they could also do better - much better. Take a look at my coaching big board and my updated wish list when the search was narrowed to seven candidates. Collins ranked 8 (out of 11) and 7 (out of 7) respectively.
After the jump I'll tell you why I'm not Collins' biggest fan.
He hasn't coached in 8 years
The last team Doug Collins coached was the 2002-2003 Washington Wizards, which was eight years ago. Eight years is a long time to be out of coaching. The game has evolved. The players have changed. The rules have changed. I have a hard time believing any coach - regardless of track record - can pick up a clipboard after being out of the league eight years and not need at least a year or two to adjust.
I failed to find a coach in a similar situation as Collins - returning to the NBA after an eight-plus year lay-off. Larry Brown in 1988 was the closest thing, returning after a six-year hiatus. His Spurs went 21-61 that season, winning ten less games than the year before. Crossing over to another sport, Joe Gibbs returned to the NFL after being out of the league for 12 years, and failed to live up to his track record, going 30-34.
Note: Collins will also be 59 in July, and hasn't had a winning season since 1996 (14 years ago).
Great defensive coach?
Gregg Popovich's teams are always great defensively, as are Jeff Van Gundy and Larry Brown's. Phil Jackson, George Karl, and Don Nelson are known as offensive coaches and their teams usually rank in the top 10 offensively. During Collins' eight year career his teams have ranked in the top 10 offensively two times (9th twice), and top 10 defensively three times (9th, 7th and 3rd). Color me unimpressed.
Brian pointed out in the comments a couple weeks ago ...
Detroit was 27th DFR the year before he took over, 7th in his first season there.
Chicago was 3rd in DFR in his second year there, 11th in his last season (then Phil Jackson took over and they dropped to 19th).
How much credit does Collins really deserve?
When the Pistons went from 27th to 7th in defensive efficiency, they went from playing horizontally-challenged Oliver Miller at center to Theo Ratliff. They also saw great improvement from young players Grant Hill, Lindsay Hunter and Allan Houston. Collins deserves credit for developing the young guys - especially defensively - but I remain hesitant to give him too much credit for their turnaround.
As for the Bulls, he was coaching two of the best - if not the best - perimeter defenders of all-time in Jordan and Pippen. He also had Horace Grant and elite rebounder, Charles Oakley on his teams.
Yes, the team did drop from 11th to 19th in defensive efficiency the year Jackson replaced Collins, but it was clearly an aberration (or a product of Jackson's rookie year). During the next eight years under Jackson the Bulls ranked top seven every year, even the one's without Jordan.
23 (out of 23)
23 (out of 23)
23 (out of 25)
28 (out of 29)
28 (out of 29)
25 (out of 29)
27 (out of 29)
26 (out of 29)
Those are where Collins' teams ranked in terms of pace (Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team.) One thing's for sure with Collins - his teams are going to play slow. Pace isn't indicative of transition baskets, because you can rank near the bottom of the league in pace and still lead the league in fast break points (see: 07-08 Sixers), but with the Sixers speed and athleticism it makes sense for them to "play fast" all the time, and I'm not sure Collins will allow that.
Other answered questions
Will Collins want a say in personal decisions?
If Collins system doesn't fit the Sixers will he be able to adjust his system to fit the roster, rather than forcing his system on the roster (like Eddie Jordan)?
The development of Jrue and the other young guys, along with the number two pick should improve the Sixers record by a handful of games, before factoring in the new coach. Add Collins to the mix, who'll be replacing Eddie Jordan, and there's no reason the Sixers should win less than 37 games next year (10 more than this year).
Collins is known as a disciplinarian and he should provide much-needed leadership and discipline to a young team. He's also known as being a defensive-minded coach, so assuming four of the Sixers five starters next year are Holiday, Turner, Iguodala and Dalembert, there's no reason Collins shouldn't have them playing top 10 defense.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, they Sixers could've done worse, but they could've done much better. Doug Collins will look like Red Auerbach next to Eddie Jordan, but there were better options available. I was looking for a little more upside, which Collins has very little of.
I'll consider Collins a success if the Sixers win 37+ games and finish as a top 10 defensive team. Anything less will be a failure. Oh, and don't let him near any player personal decisions.