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Potential Coaches

The rumors are sort of hovering right now. Doug Collins' name has come up a couple of times, most recently in an article from Phil Jasner. Jasner chased down Collins' agent and got the quotes you'd expect, basically, Collins' isn't lobbying for a job, especially not for a job that isn't even available right now. The gist of the article seems to be that Collins could be lured back into coaching for the right situation. The question for us is, do we want him?

Here's what I'm looking for in a coach, in no particular order:

  • A strong defensive philosophy. This team has the athletes to be an elite defensive team. As far as I'm concerned, they need a coach who can get the performance out of them to match their physical gifts. I'm doubtful that, as currently constructed, they have the pieces to be an elite offensive team. Bringing an offensive genius in here may elevate them to an above-average offensive team, but I'd prefer being an elite defensive team and a mediocre offensive team than merely above average in both.
  • A track record. I'm really not interested in on-the-job training. If we're talking about a guy who's been an assistant forever, then fine. But I don't want a young, first-time coach.
  • An understanding of talent. As fans we over-value our own guys. As an organization, sometimes players are judged based on who drafted/signed them, or what they're supposed to be. We need a coach who can look at this roster, judge it for what it is, and dole out minutes based on what's going to give the team the best chance to win.
  • A backbone. He must be able to sit a guy making $5M for a guy making league-minimum if it's the best decision for the team.
  • Xs and Os. The thing I miss most about Larry Brown is his tactical management of a game. Namely, when the Sixers had a bad first half under LB, they almost always came out in the second half and made key adjustments to swing the game. Whenever LB called a timeout to stop an opponent's run, he drew up a play to get a high-percentage shot out of the timeout. Things like that add up. He was also a master of finding a mismatch and exploiting it until the other team adjusted.
So, how does Collins measure up to the list above? Well, that's sort of an unknown. You can check out his coaching career right here. He has 8 years of coaching history, 5 times he took his team to the playoffs, he got his team out of the first round twice. He began his coaching career in Michael Jordan's third year with the Bulls. Jordan really began his ascent under Collins. In his final year in Chicago, Collins took the Bulls to the conference finals where they lost in 6 games to the Pistons. The year after Collins left, Phil Jackson took the Bulls back to the conference finals and again lost to the Pistons. The following year, Jackson won his first championship with the Bulls.

In his second coaching sting, Collins took over for a Detroit franchise in a shambles. They drafted Grant Hill the previous season, but still only managed 28 wins. Under Don Chaney, the Pistons ranked 24th in offensive efficiency and 27th in defensive efficiency. The following season, under Collins, Detroit won 46 games. Their offensive efficiency ranking moved up to number 15, their defense all the way up to number 6. Eventually, they were swept out of the first round in the playoffs.

The following season, Collins ramped the Detroit offense way up. They finished 5th in the league in efficiency and Grant Hill had easily the best season of his career, before or since. Detroit again lost in the first round, however, and Collins was replaced midway through the following season.

It's tough to judge Collins' coaching record. On the one hand, he took two teams from relative obscurity to 50-win seasons in short order. On the other hand, he had Michael Jordan and Grant Hill, pre-injuries, at his disposal. I'm pretty sure he would've eventually won titles with the Bulls, but I don't know how much an endorsement that is. Jordan powered that team. The fact that his longest tenure with a team was three seasons worries me a little bit, especially with those teams. They Bulls were obviously on their way up, and they decided they needed someone else at the helm to get them over the top. Detroit rose quickly, then fell just as quickly.

As far as a coaching identity, Collins coached three top-ten defenses (Chicago once, Detroit twice), and until his stint with Washington, he never coached a team which ranked lower than 11th in defensive efficiency. I suppose his record leans toward him being a good defensive coach. More importantly for the Sixers, he does have a record of working with exceptional young talents and guiding them to excellence. I'm wondering what he'd do with Iguodala and Thad.

My personal feeling is that Collins would be an upgrade over DiLeo. He has enough of a track record and a pressence in the league to possibly be able to control the locker room. I've been impressed with things he's said about the team during their rare appearances on TNT. If the choice was between Collins and DiLeo, there really wouldn't be a choice, it would be Collins, but the Sixers aren't that limited in their options.

As I looked at coaching records, the name that kept jumping out at me was Jeff Van Gundy. JVG has an 11-year coaching track record. In his 10 full seasons at the helm, he's had a top-five ranked defensive team 8 times, the other two times, they were ranked sixth. He took his teams to the playoffs 9 out of 10 seasons, escaped the first round 5 out of 9 and went to the finals once.

I truly believe Van Gundy can turn this Sixers squad into a top-five defense in the league. If he'd agree to get an assistant to run the offense, I'd sign him today.

There are other names floating around out there. The ideal would be Jerry Sloan, who may or may not leave Utah. I doubt he's going anywhere, but if he did leave the Jazz, I'd throw the bank at him. Avery Johnson strikes me as a dimwit on the NBA shows I've seen him on and quotes I've read have left me less-than impressed. He had one of the best statistical teams in the history of the league in Dallas and they got knocked out in the first round.

If you really think you want Avery Johnson as your head coach, please listen to this.

Leave your thoughts on the coaching situation in the comments.