Doug Collins’ emphasis on defense paying off for Sixers


Dec 21

Doug Collins has proven to be a coach with the ability to come in to a new job and make a short-term impact.

So when his Philadelphia 76ers started out the season 3-13, it was clear he had his work cut out for him. However, his team has turned things around since then, going 8-3 over their past 11 games.

On Tuesday at the United Center, Collins shared a story from when he played on the 1972 U.S. Olympics team in Munich, West Germany that he likely conveyed to this Sixers group.

“I remember Coach [Henry] Iba when I went to the Olympics and I was the second leading scorer in the country,” recalled Collins, who played collegiately at Illinois State and was the first overall pick in the 1973 draft. “He came up to me and said, ‘Son, if you’re going to play for me, you’re going to have to guard people.’ I said, ‘OK, coach.’ He said, ‘Because if you don’t, your substitute will.’”

However he made his point, Collins’ emphasis on defense has paid off. During their first 16 games, the Sixers allowed 101.8 points per game. In their last 11, opponents have only managed 88.0 per contest.

“I think guys know that our identity, if we want to win, has to be on the defensive end, because we don’t have explosive enough scoring,” said Collins. “We’re not going to have nights we put 120 up on the board. If we have any chance, we have to keep teams under 45 percent shooting and defend the three.”

Collins’ NBA coaching career began in Chicago, when he was named head coach of the Bulls on May 23, 1986. Collins took the Bulls to the playoffs in his first season and guided them to 50 wins in 1987-88, marking the franchise’s first 50-win season in 14 years. In his third and final season with Chicago in 1988-89, the Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals.

When asked about how his coaching style has changed since that time, Collins shared a conversation he had with Neil Funk, the Bulls’ play-by-play announcer.

“He said, ‘I saw you walking off the floor and how calm you were [after a couple tough losses earlier this season]… I was just waiting for some chairs to start flying,’” Collins laughed. “I said, ‘Nah, I’m too old to do that kind of stuff now.’ I think the passion and the competitiveness is the same. I don’t think I’m any different there. I just think I channel it a lot better.”

Though he only coached three seasons in Chicago, Collins said it feels as if it were 30 the way the city continues to embrace him.

“That’s really what this organization is all about,” said Collins. “I had five or six people stop in and say hi to me who were working here when I worked here. Jerry Reinsdorf is an incredibly loyal guy. This organization is filled with wonderful people.”

Speaking of Reinsdorf, Collins disclosed that he received a text from the Bulls Chairman earlier in the day, saying the Sixers were catching the Bulls at a bad time because of their injuries.

“He said, ‘Good luck once you leave Chicago,’” said Collins.

As for the team he once coached, Collins believes they will be a force to be reckoned with in the East once injured center Joakim Noah is back in the mix.

“[When] healthy, great,” Collins said of the Bulls, who he also praised for their defensive efforts. “Even beat up, as long as you’ve got Derrick Rose on your team, you’ve got a chance.”

Evan Turner finding his way in the NBA

For Sixers rookie guard Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in last summer’s draft behind John Wall, it’s also a homecoming of sorts. Turner was born in Chicago and attended St. Joseph High School in Westchester before moving on to Ohio State, where he claimed 2010 National Player of the Year honors as a junior.

“It’s super cool to have the opportunity to be around my friends and family and have them come watch me play,” said Turner of being at the United Center for the first time as a pro.

As is typical for so many newcomers to the league, Turner’s first season has been filled with ups and downs. During a five game stretch when Andre Iguodala was injured, Turner averaged 12.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists in 37.0 minutes per game. However, over his past 12 games played, his numbers have dipped to 2.7 points on 32.5% shooting from the floor.

“I’m just trying to become a better player every single day and be prepared for whatever is up next,” said Turner. “It’s already been a whirlwind, so I don’t worry about it. I just worry about getting better.”

One of Turner’s high school teammates, University of Illinois guard Demetri McCamey, is someone he keeps close tabs with, as well as several of his former Ohio State teammates.

“He’s my brother,” said Turner of McCamey. “When he played in New York a few weeks ago, I drove in to see him. I’ve known him ever since we were little kids, so he’s like family.”

While McCamey flirted with going pro last summer, he decided to return for his senior season in Champaign.

“I think he made the right decision,” said Turner. “But I don’t think people understand how good he is right now and how well his game will transition to the NBA. He’s a tough guard for any guard because he’s so big. He can pass the ball, runs well in transition, plays defense, and can really score.”

Bulls vs. 76ers season notes

Chicago won the season series last year 3-1, for the first time since the 2006-07 season (2-1) … the Bulls are 3-7 versus the Sixers in overtime, most recently falling 106-103 in overtime on Feb. 3, 2010 … the last time there was a series sweep in this series came in 2003-04, when the Sixers went 4-0 against the Bulls … the Bulls are 7-10 against the 76ers in their last 17 meetings at the United Center … Chicago is 31-62 all-time versus Philadelphia in the City of Brotherly Love and 52-46 in the Windy City … last season, Derrick Rose averaged 21.0 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.3 rpg and 37.8 mpg in four games against the 76ers; he also shot .500 from the floor … in four contests versus the Bulls, Andre Iguodala averaged a team-high 20.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg and 5.0 apg in 38.3 mpg … the Bulls have not swept the season series versus Philly since 1996-97, when they went 4-0.

Audio—Bulls Coach Tom Thibodeau’s pregame comments (12.21.10):

Audio—Sixers Coach Doug Collins’ pregame comments (12.21.10):

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