76ers Coach Doug Collins, grayer and more mellow, back in the second round after 23 years

Posted: May 13, 2012 at 1:16 am

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When Michael Jordan buried that iconic, hanging jumper over Craig Ehlo more than 23 years ago in Cleveland, a 37-year-old Doug Collins hoisted his fists, hunted down Jordan with a frantic sprint, hair flopping wildly about his head, and jubilantly hopped around to celebrate with his Chicago Bulls players.

Collins would gray almost completely, lose several hair follicles and three coaching jobs before he would have the opportunity to feel to excitement of winning another first-round playoff series. And, his next victory came in similarly dramatic fashion, as Philadelphia 76ers all-star forward Andre Iguodala buried two free throws with 2.2 seconds remaining to complete a stunning upset of the Bulls.

Again, Collins gleefully raised his hands. But instead of joining Iguodala on the scorers table or chasing down the rest of his giddy players to dance under confetti, Collins applauded, pointed toward the crowd and headed toward the tunnel, mind already drifting to the next opponent.

Im not in this for me, Collins explained after the 76ers won a first-round series for the first time since 2003, when another player named A.I. dominated the Philadelphia sports landscape and Collins was fired after a failed two-year stint coaching Jordan again with the Washington Wizards.

The 76ers are back in the second round, against the Boston Celtics, after Collins led the only franchise for which he played to a win over the first franchise he coached. And, the magnitude of the win wasnt lost on Collins, who proudly proclaimed afterward, Im a Sixer. For life.

Since leaving his cushy existence as a TNT studio analyst before the 2010-11 season to coach the organization that drafted him first overall in 1973, Collins has repeatedly spoken about how much he has changed since his previous coaching job, in Washington; that he has become more grandfatherly and focused on a greater purpose of passing on knowledge to an impressionable young team. But while he has delegated more responsibility to his assistants in Philadelphia, losing doesnt hurt any less, and Collins remains as competitive and intense nearly two months shy of his 61st birthday.

I got to be honest with you, Im a little anal as my family will tell you, Collins said from the podium on Thursday, as he sat next to his grandson, Cooper. Im just at a different spot in my life. As a younger person, you look more for the satisfaction of the things that come to you and I think as you get older and you become a pop-pop, you look at things a little differently. So, Im not as selfish as I used to be.

Collinss reputation for being too tightly wound and overbearing has followed him through his time in Chicago and Detroit, where he had initial success before flaming out; and Washington, where he never really had the chance to wear on his team, with young players such as former No. 1 overall pick Kwame Brown bristling from the outset.

He lifted the 76ers from the lottery to the playoffs in his first season coaching the 76ers, overcoming an ugly 3-13 start to finish with the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. Philadelphia then opened this lockout-shortened season looking like a team that was ready to join the conferences elite.

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76ers Coach Doug Collins, grayer and more mellow, back in the second round after 23 years

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May 13th, 2012 at 1:16 am

Posted in Life Coaching