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MEN’S BASKETBALL: Collecting Collins’ wisdom

Pat Leonard | Monday, October 10, 2005

One of Doug Collins’ first drills at the Notre Dame Basketball Coaches Clinic on Saturday began with an entry pass to the wing.

When Notre Dame guard Colin Falls caught Chris Quinn’s pass with his feet on the 3-point line, the coach in Collins showed itself – or at least proved it will never go away entirely.

“Colin, they’ll guard you in the parking lot,” Collins said, and he pushed Falls further out to create separation between the sharpshooter and his teammates.

At 54 years old, Collins’ coaching days are over – for now, anyway. Collins once slipped from broadcasting back into coaching in 2001, when he took over the then-woeful Washington Wizards to oversee a 40-year old Michael Jordan.

But on Notre Dame’s Joyce Center floor at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Collins explained his philosophies and roots in the game of basketball, telling stories and running drills to illustrate his points to the attending area high school coaches.

Collins came at the request of Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who pled guilty to taking full advantage of such a respected and thorough basketball mind being available to his team.

“As important as you like to have high school coaches on your campus and close to your program, I looked at [Saturday] as a day of having Doug plugged into my team and my program and using him as a consultant and eyes,” Brey said.

Brey and Collins have been close friends since their first meeting, when Brey was an assistant at Duke University recruiting Collins’ son, Chris.

Since then, both men have been busy with their respective programs or, in Collins’ case, broadcasting roles. But Brey said Collins has always been an accommodating friend and fellow coach.

“When I was [the head coach] at Delaware, I needed [Collins] for my banquet, and he was doing a Lakers game in L.A. on a Tuesday; the banquet was on Wednesday,” Brey said. “He red-eyed all night to Philly, drove down and did my banquet on one week’s notice … He’s a good friend.”

Brey is not the only person in the Irish basketball program who is close friends with the esteemed coach.

The Quinn family has known Collins since they moved to the Chicago area and Collins’ son was playing basketball at Glenbrook North High School, Collins said. Quinn attended Collins’ basketball camp and consulted Collins when he moved to Columbus, Ohio. Collins recommended Dublin-Coffman coach Tony Bornhorst, where Quinn would eventually play.

Collins has coached the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons and the Wizards during his professional coaching career. He has worked for CBS, Turner Broadcasting and NBC, and he’s now a commentator for TNT.

As for his hands-on work with Notre Dame’s squad Saturday?

“They’re fast learners,” Collins said. “Obviously, Chris Quinn and Colin Falls can really shoot the ball. Their big men have a chance to be good on the inside. So this could be a surprising year for Notre Dame.

“I know they had a big loss with Chris Thomas [leaving], but I think this team may be coming under the radar a little bit to surprise some people. They picked things up quickly today, they’re competitive and they looked to be in great shape. I think they’re ready to start practice next week.”

Following his speech and on-court demonstrations, Collins spoke about issues concerning his career, the NBA and the game of basketball.

On Collins’ path to remain close to the game of basketball

“I was taught how to play basketball as a young guy, so I have an awareness that when I watch the game, I have the ability to articulate what I’m seeing so that hopefully you can better understand it and enjoy watching it.

I think all the coaches who worked with me helped me in that area, and then I’ve worked with some great broadcasters who were play-by-play guys who taught me how to be in TV.

I’ve worked with the best there is – Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Gary Bender, Brent Musberger, Bob Neele, Vern Lundquist. I’ve been a lucky guy.”

On Collins’ toughest challenge entering a coaching job

“Washington, easily. Wasn’t even close. Because of the dynamics, where Michael [Jordan] was president of the organization, was part owner, [came] back at the age of 40 to play; knowing he’s going to play and then move back into the front office and then with all the young guys we had on the team. … that was definitely, by far, the toughest job I ever tried to do.”

On coaching Jordan in Chicago

“[Michael Jordan] would wish he could play two games every day, not just one. I’ve never seen a more passionate, fundamentally sound, competitive, winning athlete … and he always treated me with the ultimate respect, and that means as much to me as the games he won for me.”

On the NBA’s allowing zone defense

“I don’t really think it’s had that much effect. You don’t see that much zone.

You’ll see it occasionally [on] endline out-of-bounds plays, sideline out-of-bounds plays or when teams are coming out of timeouts – you’ll see a team run a zone so if the other team has called a play, you’re trying to run them out of the play.

But teams are shooting three-point shots so well now, and coaches don’t like to give up open shots. You’re seeing [the zone’s influence] in little bits, but I don’t think you’re seeing the dramatic effect that you thought it would have. Actually, scoring was up last year and shooting was up, so I think it’s a positive.”

On recent low NBA ratings

“I think the reason the ratings are down is because there are so many games on television. Other than [TNT’s] Thursday night game, which is an exclusive game, with every game that’s televised there’s probably eight or nine games going on that particular night. And it goes in cycles. But I think the NBA is on a very positive upswing.”

On NBA teams’ draft habits

“It’s totally different [from the past]. Now, if you stay in college three years, they think you can’t play anymore. But I went to school for four years, and I still got better when I got in the NBA.

Now, [a team’s philosophy] is ‘Let’s get them as young as we can.’ And if that’s the case, unless the player is unique like a LeBron James or a Carmelo Anthony, it’s going to take him two or three years [to develop]. And usually the first coach who coaches him is going to get fired, developing him so somebody else can coach him.

Very seldom will you be able to develop a young player and be there long enough for when he’s at his prime to even be able to coach him, because you’re going to take all the losses.”