New coach Collins believes 76ers will be better

September 23, 2010 7:31:23 PM PDT
For much of the last decade, the Philadelphia 76ers' pre-training camp coaches luncheon has seemed more like an annual Rotary Club event.

Much of the aging crowd is the same. It's just the guest speaker that's different.

Doug Collins wants to book another reservation, this one for 2011.

Collins is committed to slapping a dead bolt on Philadelphia's revolving door that tosses out coaches just when they get settled on the bench. The former TNT announcer is the Sixers' seventh - seventh! - coach since Larry Brown left in 2003. Collins hopes to bring stability and success to a franchise that has lost direction, attention and enthusiasm.

"I'm aware of how many coaches they've had," Collins said Thursday. "I told them the other day, 'At some point in time, we have to all roll up our sleeves. If things don't change, then the name on the plate for the coach will change again. At some point in time, we have to do it together."'

Forgive the Sixers if they've heard that message before. Andre Iguodala was coached by Jim O'Brien as a rookie in 2004. He's since learned various takes on X's and O's from Maurice Cheeks, Tony DiLeo, Eddie Jordan, and now Collins.

Iguodala, who hasn't played on a Sixers team with a winning record since he was a rookie, is coming off a stout performance as the defensive stopper for the U.S. squad that won a gold medal at the world championships.

Collins told Iguodala to get away from basketball for a few weeks - to relax, refresh and get ready to take what he learned this summer into training camp.

Iguodala's response was a simple "thank you," Collins said. Iguodala said he had played for so many coaches, that he starts every training camp feeling like he has to prove himself.

"I know what you can do. It's not about proving yourself," Collins told Iguodala.

"He was appreciative of that," the coach said. "He doesn't have to come in and show me anything special."

Collins has been as much motivational speaker as coach this summer, trying to meet with as many players as he could before the start of Tuesday's training camp. He sent assistant coaches on the road to build confidence and trust.

The Sixers hired Collins after a 27-win season. They canned Jordan, stripped Ed Stefanski of his presidency and made him general manager only, and traded perennial complainer Samuel Dalembert. They hired Rod Thorn as team president and took Ohio State guard Evan Turner with the second pick in the draft.

On Thursday, the Sixers made a trade to add rookie forward Craig Brackins. The 21st pick in the draft, he averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds last season for Iowa State.

"Had he come out the year before he probably would have been a lottery pick," Collins said.

Collins wanted a promising big man he could pair with Turner for a future inside-outside combination.

He likes his roster, which appears set, entering camp.

"We haven't hit any home runs where it's like, 'Wow,' but we feel like we've quietly improved our team on paper," Collins said. "Now we've got to figure out how to put it all together."

Collins has seen the Sixers morph from losers to winners before. He was drafted No. 1 overall in 1973 by a Sixers team coming off an all-time NBA-worst 9-73 record. Four years later, the Sixers were in the NBA finals.

Collins spoke across the street from Citizens Bank Park, where 40,000-plus fans stuff the place every night to wave their rally towels as the Phillies inch closer toward their fourth straight playoff appearance. He was in the same building that shook only two-plus months ago as the Flyers took their run at the Stanley Cup all the way to a Game 6 loss. Behind his back was Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles and the Michael Vick-Kevin Kolb QB controversy that has been the talk of the town this week.

Here comes Collins, confident he'll have the time to make the Sixers winners and have the city care about them again.

"We've got to show these fans we're going to compete every night," Collins said. "But to get embraced, you've got to be embraceable."


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