Doug Collins will be taking his familiar position this weekend as a TNT analyst for the NBA All-Star Game. But he could have had a seat on the 76ers' bench instead.

Among the most respected television analysts in the game, Collins was offered a job as an assistant coach by Maurice Cheeks when Cheeks took over as head coach in 2005.

Collins, a four-time all-star who played for the Sixers from 1973 to 1981, has been an NBA head coach for three teams: Chicago, Detroit and most recently Washington, where he guided the Wizards for two seasons, ending in 2002-03.

He said he did not aspire to be a head coach but would consider being an assistant and serving as a mentor to a young coach.

"The only way I would coach is five or six years down the road," said Collins. "For instance, Mo asked me a few years ago to be with him as an assistant coach."

Collins said that, at the time, he was enjoying his television work and was not ready.

Now in his third season with the Sixers, Cheeks said that asking Collins to join him was an easy decision.

"I know his knowledge of the game, plus I played with him when I first got here, so I know he understands the game as well as anybody," Cheeks said.

And that understanding is presented to viewers during TNT telecasts. Collins will be courtside for Sunday's game from New Orleans, along with Marv Albert and Reggie Miller. The pregame show will begin at 8 p.m. and will be followed by the game at 8:30.

This is Collins' second tenure with Turner Sports. He was an analyst from 1989 to 1994 and has worked the last five years for TNT. He has earned three Emmy nominations and two Cable Ace awards.

While some announcers rely on catchphrases, Collins prefers to educate viewers while not talking over their heads.

"I've always felt that substance always wins over style," Collins said. "Maybe not in the short term, but in the long haul. I approach every game like the biggest game of the week."

While Cheeks didn't get his man as a coach, he enjoys Collins' work on television.

"He's one of the best," Cheeks said. "He educates the viewers as well as anybody who announces games, and understands the game as well as anybody."

Collins broke into broadcasting doing Sixers games on the radio.

From the beginning, he was a natural as an analyst but couldn't say the same as a player.

"I didn't even start on my own high school team as a junior, and I ended up starting for the Olympic team" four years later, he said.

Collins was a key member of the 1972 team that lost to the Soviet Union, 51-50, in the controversial gold-medal game. (The Soviets were given three chances to convert a last-second inbounds pass.)

After concluding his career at Illinois State, Collins was the first overall pick in the 1973 NBA draft by the Sixers.

Despite his success, which will include being an analyst for NBC for this summer's Olympics, Collins refuses to get complacent.

He prepares as diligently for broadcasts as he did as a coach. He estimates that he puts in about 30 hours a week to prepare for his usual Thursday night game on TNT.

"The game is now more than just the X's and O's," Collins said. "When somebody sits down to watch a game, I have to think why would they watch the game."