Doug Collins is a realist. But he's also an optimist. So while he knows the Sixers aren't going to be in contention for an NBA title in his first season as coach, he doesn't see any reason why the Sixers shouldn't at least be in the hunt for an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
Collins, who was named the Sixers' coach May 21, believes the Sixers are better than their 27-55 record last season under Eddie Jordan.
"I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and go to work because there are some nice young pieces in this organization," Collins said. "It's like I'm the bus driver; I have to get the right people on the bus and, more importantly, get them all in the right seats. If we can do that, we're going to win a lot of games."
Collins believes -- hopes? -- his defensive-oriented approach, combined with the Sixers' talent and question marks about numerous teams in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference, could result in a significant improvement. The Sixers made the playoffs in the two previous seasons with much of the same roster.
"A lot of people say, 'Why would you want to do this?' And I say, 'Why not?'" said Collins, who played his entire eight-year career with the Sixers after he went No. 1 in the 1973 NBA Draft. "I'm a builder. I guess the bigger the challenge the more it excites me. That's what drives me. If you look at my career, I've taken on challenges everywhere I've been. Illinois State wasn't even Division I when I went there. Then I came to the Sixers, who were 9-73 (in 1972-73). In 1977, we went to the NBA Finals."
The three previous NBA teams Collins coached -- the Bulls, Pistons and Wizards -- won 10, 18 and 18 more games than the year before in Collins' first season. He compiled a 332-287 record in eight years as a coach, reaching the Eastern Conference final with Chicago in 1988-89.
"You have to have somebody to capture their attention," said Sixers assistant Aaron McKie, whom Collins coached in Detroit. "It's like being a car salesman. You have to get people to buy into what you are trying to sell. Doug is that guy."
A 98-97 road victory over the Celtics on Dec. 18 came at a time when the Sixers were struggling to win close games, which ended up being a recurring theme. They still had a chance to use this shocker as a springboard to salvaging the season and make the playoffs for the third straight year, but lost their next three and eventually were eliminated from postseason contention with nearly a month to go.
The day team president Ed Stefanski hired Eddie Jordan as coach (May 30, 2009). Jordan's Princeton offense didn't fit the Sixers' personnel because they're lacking in perimeter shooters, quality low-post scorers and enough guys with high basketball IQs to excel at it. He blamed the ill-fated arrival of Allen Iverson for abandoning the Princeton, but it was on the way out before Iverson returned to Philly. Jordan played rotation roulette all year, tended not to take blame when things weren't going well and his team allowed opponents to shoot the league's highest three-point percentage (.393).
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