The Philadelphia 76ers were a putrid 27-55 last season ranking 13th overall in the Eastern Conference in 2009. This season has been a totally different story in the city of “Brotherly Love.” The 76ers sit at 24-28 thus far this season, currently ranking 7th in the East Conference. There are many factors that can be attributed to the vast improvements in Philadelphia from last season, but it starts from the top and that is head coach Doug Collins. On May 21st of last year Collins, decided to move on from broadcasting the NBA and take his 4th coaching job with the 76ers. Collins has formerly coached the Chicago Bulls (1986-89), Detroit Pistons (1995-98) and the Washington Wizards (2001-2003). The 76ers have really turned it around in a short period of time under Collins playing hard-fought basketball contesting every shot defensively. Philadelphia has really developed a good bench during the season with Lou Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Evan Turner making contributions. Collins has even gotten Andre Iguodala to play harder despite repetitive trade rumors. The 76ers are a young team on the rise in the Eastern Conference with seven players who are twenty-two years of age or younger. Doug Collins joined 97.5 “The Fanatic” in Philadelphia with Jon Marks and Tim Legler to discuss making the transition from broadcasting to coaching in the NBA for the Philadelphia 76ers, the difference in the environment in Philadelphia since he’s taken over as head coach, how he’s changed his coaching style this time around compared to his other three jobs, what was behind the decision making process of benching Evan Turner in favor of Jodie Meeks and what has been his coaching approach with Andre Iguodala.
Tell me the process of going from a career in broadcasting to making that venture back into coaching this Philadelphia 76ers team that needed a culture change?
“Well Legs [Tim Legler] it’s been one of the most enjoyable expierences I’ve had coaching. I love being back in Philadelphia. You know being in this area and stuff. These people love the 76ers and I know how the organization has been struggling through the last few years and all. It’s just been an opportunity for me to come back home and I saw young talent Tim. I saw seven guys, twenty-two or younger on this team, who were in our ten-man rotation and that doesn’t count Craig Brackins who we’ve had in the D-League. I saw some young talent. I saw some high characters guys and I thought I saw some guys that wanted to win. I love to teach. That’s what I love to do. I love being on the floor. I love to teach. I love to watch guys grow and it’s been a real wonderful experience for me on a daily basis how professional guys have been. I mean Legs we’ve had some of the most heartbreaking losses this year that you could imagine. It’s almost like you couldn’t imagine to lose some of the games we’ve lost, but we’ve always bounced back. Our guys have been resilient. We play hard every night. We try to defend. I think our guys are having fun playing and that’s been a joy for me.”
The difference in environment that I’m seeing now compared to other years is so different. I’m seeing enthusiasm from the guys and seeing how the guys want to play with each other, you’re playing a lot of young guys as well. It’s the best of both worlds huh?
“It is. It is Tim. Like you said you know if you take all the teams right now that are trying to battle to get into the playoffs very few of them are playing as many young players as we are, but you know in many instances I feel that’s a blessing because we have hope. One of the things I said in my press conference when I took the job was is “I want to make us relevant again.” I want us to have hope that this is not going to be some flash in a pan, but something you can build and have a 7-8 year run with these young guys and watch them grow. Tim what you said is so true. This is a group of guys who are incredibly unselfish. They love playing basketball together and when one of them is not on the floor they’re cheering for each other. You know you’ve been in this business a long time. It’s hard to find that and especially for us to fight through a 3-13 start and for our guys to pick that up and to continue to believe and continue to work and practice. All of a sudden some good things start happening, so I’m really proud of them Tim and for me to walk on that floor every night and to represent the 76ers and Mr.Snider. I know how badly he wants a good team. It’s fun.”
How have you changed your approach to coaching on this 4th go around from when you coached Michael Jordan and the Bulls?
“Well I told Sam I’m a grandpa now before I was coaching I sought things through the eyes of my teenage children and now I see life through the eyes of my four grandchildren, who are eight years or younger and I see how relate to each one of them differently. You love them all the same, but how personality wise they’re different. How one is ultra sensitive and one is outgoing and one is…you know it’s different for me to see and more importantly is I delegate better. I’m almost like a football coach in that I’ve really turned over our defensive side of the ball, all of our concepts are placed through Michael Curry and Aaron Mckie and Brian James. They put out our game plan every single night what we want to defensively. Quin Snyder and I really handle the offensive side of the ball, so it’s taken so much off my plate. It’s enabled me to be rested and I so trust my assistants. I think when you’re a younger coach there’s that insecurity of you like who’s going to get the credit and stuff. The credit to me is when our team wins the credit goes to the players. That to me is what it’s all about.”
I thought the turning point of the season was when you changed the lineup having Jodie Meeks replace Evan Turner at the two spot. Not many people would have benched the number two draft pick. What went through your decision?
“Totally Tim. When I made that decision first and foremost I don’t know if a lot of people realize I mean Evan Turner has had two DNP’s this year when he was healthy. I mean with what you are talking about is to me to have the freedom to coach the team and do what I think is necessary and not necessarily the politically correct thing to do or what would be viewed publicly as the right thing to do, but what’s best for our team and I felt like Evan Turner coming into our team this year was more of a point guard then he is a two guard. If you looked at preseason last year Legs my best player was Lou Williams, but I felt like Lou Williams coming off the bench would give us a matchup that other teams didn’t have. I liked playing him off the ball. I said if we put Evan with that group let Evan do what he does best handle the ball and play. Let Lou play off the ball and do what he does best. Those guys fit well. Jodie gives us spacing. He gives us energy. He gives us great ways to start the games. Arguably two of best players come off the bench in Thaddy [Thaddeus Young] and Lou [Louis Williams] and now with Evan [Turner] we feel like we have one of the most potent benches in the NBA, which you know though the course of an 82-game season is so important. Evan has really grown within his personality. All the things you were talking about. There’s no question he’s very introspective young man. He thinks. He puts a lot of pressure on himself. I said look Evan just play and have fun. Everything else will take care of itself. It’s my job to put you in position to successful and not to fail. I’ll take that pressure and you just play. He’s been great. I’m really, really, happy with Evan.”
How have you tried to coach Andre Iguodala being that he’s been the subject of so many trade rumors over the last year and a half? What has your approach been to get him playing as well as be has been?
“First of all he’s one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever been around in my entire life. I would some instances go into the locker room at halftime and he would have taken 2 or 3 shots. I mean the other night were playing the Knicks and it’s in the second quarter and they’ve sort of made a push at us and taken the lead and I want Dre [Andre Iguodala]. I said Dre [Andre Iguodala] you know I need you to be more aggressive now going into the half and he said “I’m good. I’m good. I got 10 assists.” At that point in time he had only taken two shots. Tim, I think you can appreciate this I want Andre to get the ball into his hands early and than late to get him involved because I don’t want to go through half’s where he’s got only 2 or 3 shots or whatever. Plus he can make so many things happen. He’s got a great ability. He’s really cut back on his turnovers and Tim you do it all the time in the studio and break so many things down. In the NBA if you don’t play on the weak side of the floor these teams just zone you, lock you in, and you’re in trouble. You can’t score. For us to get the ball on the weak side of the floor it’s so important and Dre has the size to see over and get that ball over the weak side of the floor and now we can play. It’s been a huge plus for us, so I’m really pleased. His defense has been great. He and Elton have been terrific. They’ve played well together and Dre is in a very good spot. I think he sees the young guys and I think he sees his ability to really have an impact on their careers. I think he’s really stepped up and enjoyed that.”