Much was made of Doug Collins history of turning teams around in his first year at the helm last year. He comes in, shakes things up, settles them down and puts wins on the board for his team. Unfortunately, that first-year turnaround was overshadowed by his departure (after three years in Chicago and Detroit, two years in Washington). Coaching has always been hard on Collins, and his style has worn on players in the past. Today, let's take a look at how his teams have performed in their second year under him, since that's pretty relevant right about now.
In Collins first year in Chicago, the Bulls finished 40-42 (a 10-game improvement over the previous year). Jordan missed basically the entire year prior to Collins' arrival, and his mere presence probably accounted for the leap in Doug's first season, but what Collins can probably take some serious credit for is how the team performed in his second year in charge.
The Bulls made two huge draft picks that season in Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen, but neither player made a huge impact in their rookie campaigns. The top five players, by minutes played, stayed exactly the same from year one to year two (Jordan, Oakley, John Paxson, Dave Corzine and Brad Sellers. Pippen and Grant probably made their biggest contributions on the defensive end, and the Bulls improved from 9th to 3rd in DFR. They finished the season with 50 wins, and lost in the second round of the playoffs.
Collins took over in Detroit for Grant Hill's second year and led them to 46 wins his first season there. Theo Ratliff was a rookie, Otis Thorpe, Joe Dumars and Allan Houston played big roles for that team.
The following year, Houston fled Detroit for New York (via free agency) and Collins slid Lindsay Hunter into the starting lineup. Aaron McKie was also on this Detroit team. Collins leaned heavily on four key players: Hill, Hunter, Thorpe and Dumars (Dumars played 1,923 minutes at 33-year-old). He rounded out his 8-man rotation with Ratliff, Terry Mills, Grant Long and Michael Curry (yes, that Michael Curry).
Collins lost Allan Houston's 57.1% true shooting percentage and 7.1 win shares, and still upped the Pistons win total from 46 to 54. The team disappointed in the playoffs, however, marring what was really a great job by Collins considering the minutes he lost and the pieces he used to fill the gap.
The Wizards didn't improve at all in Collins second year as head coach (37 wins in each season). Their efficiency ratings were pretty much flat, even though they had a lot of turnover on the roster. Jordan played over 3,000 minutes in his age 39 season. Christian Laettner was the team's best big.
I'm sure Collins would like to forget his time in Washington at this point. That entire team was more like a sideshow to Michael Jordan's return, and there was a question as to whether Collins could relate with the new brand of basketball player.
So two big jumps in his second year and one flat season. For Chicago and Detroit, the jumps they made from year one to year two can probably be attributed, in large part, to Collins having two full years to install his system and work with his players. In both cases, however, Collins had a young superstar in the middle of his ascension. He leaned on HIll and Jordan even more in their second years, but it's hard to say that had nothing to do with Collins, considering it's the exact thing any good coach would've done with those two guys.
The question is, what will Collins be able to do with this team in his second year. He's got almost no turnover, he knows his players, he's got a year's worth of data on which combinations work well together (and which ones don't), plus, he got 13,127 minutes from players 24-years-old or younger. Even if Collins did nothing, you'd have to expect improvement from those young players who aren't even near their primes.
Add all of those advantages up, then consider that the Sixers started last year 3-13 before pulling it together to finish at .500 and you'd have to peg them to improve their record this season. If they don't, it would be a disappointment. It should only be a matter of how much they'll improve, and can they possibly improve enough to get home court advantage in the first round.