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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Thursday, May 29, 2008 - Old School Is New School?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Old School Is New School?


By Sarah Spain
Love of Sports Correspondent

Thursday morning, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that the Chicago Bulls are expected to name Doug Collins their new head coach.

You may remember that Collins used to man the sidelines for the Bulls from 1986-1989, coaching them to their best record in 15 years during the 1987-88 season. They made the playoffs all three years and advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals in Collins' last year at the helm.

Despite his success, the Illinois native (and former summer camp basketball coach of yours truly) was fired by Bulls Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and replaced by his assistant, the legendary Phil Jackson. After leaving Chicago, Collins coached the Pistons and the Wizards, then took to the mic as an analyst for TNT. Through it all, he's remained close with Bulls management.

Just a few weeks ago, the former four-time NBA All-Star declined an offer from the Bucks, telling reporters he had no interest in leaving TNT. With a Chicago offer on the table, though, Collins seems to have left his coaching door slightly ajar.

Bulls GM John Paxson released this statement about the rumors:

"I have been in contact with Doug Collins in regard to our head coaching position. Contrary to some reports that are currently out there, we have not reached an agreement. Right now, his commitment is covering the Western Conference Finals for TNT. When that series concludes, we will continue our dialogue. In the meantime, I will continue to talk to other candidates and review our options."

Perhaps the draw of his home state and relationship with Reinsdorf and Paxson will play a hand in bringing him back to coaching. And let's not forget the ace up the Bulls' sleeve: the No. 1 draft pick. Collins did, after all, start his career coaching a promising young guy in Chicago by the name of Mike.

When Collins joined the Bulls in 1986, they were a team with an outstanding young superstar, but no identity. If Collins were to join this team, the situation would be quite similar. On June 26, this team will be handed a golden opportunity in the form of either Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley. Chicago fans everywhere are holding their breath for the second coming of (heck, even a poor man's) Jordan.

Collins' fiery coaching style wasn't immediately appreciated by a young Jordan, as the two butted heads and Jordan questioned the authority of the first time head coach. However, when he joined Jordan and the Wizards in 2001, a more mature M.J. displayed nothing but respect and admiration for him. Most notably, Jordan assured any and all who asked that it wasn't he who forced Collins out of Chicago in 1989.

Whether Jordan endorsed the move or not, most agree it was the browbeating, overbearing coaching style Collins employs that got him canned. Just this past year, the Bulls were led by a similar coach, Scott Skiles, and he was unceremoniously fired midway through the season. Why should Chicago fans believe Collins would fare any better in the Windy City?

Back in the '80s, Bulls assistant coach John Bach said of Collins: "The Doug Collins you see at a game is a very emotional, excitable, quick-thinking man. It drives players, it excites them, it angers them and it motivates them … There are two kinds of teams, those that are led and those that are driven. This is a driven team, largely due to Doug.''

By the time he was fired, Skiles was yelling at a team that was no longer listening. He had lost their respect. Collins isn't the kind of coach that would cause a rift with a player over a stinkin' headband. His intensity is more about winning the game than it is about hard-headedness. His tendency towards histrionics (and his occasional battle with postgame tears) speaks to the emotion and passion he brings to coaching. That feeling of desperation and that need to succeed are exactly what's missing from a Bulls squad that seems doomed to hover in mediocrity.

If Doug Collins is named the new head coach of the Chicago Bulls, I'll be hesitantly hopeful. He can scream and cry all he wants, as long as it gets this underachieving team back into the playoffs and beyond.


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