DOUG COLLINS KNOWS the Philadelphia 76ers.
In fact, while listening to the Sixers' new coach at his introductory news conference yesterday, I got the feeling the soon-to-be-former NBA television analyst for TNT could give you a rundown of every team in the Association, off the top of his head.
"I have a very active mind, sometimes too active," he said. "I think about if I were coaching that particular team tonight and I was playing against an opponent, how would I attack them, where would my matchups be, how would I like to sub, how am I putting myself in the position in the last 8 minutes of the game where I'm playing to my strength?''
Unfortunately, because the Sixers have been near the bottom of the league and Collins is a lead analyst, he hasn't had many opportunities to watch them up close and personal.
Fortunately, because of his ties to the club he was drafted by and for whom he played his entire career, Collins has kept apprised of the Sixers' roster and how they've performed.
If knowledge is power, Collins at least has a working syllabus for the crash course on "Rebuilding the Sixers, 101" that he is about to implement.
"I can't wait to roll up my sleeves and go to work because there are some nice young pieces in this organization,'' he said.
"I feel like I'm the bus driver. I've got to get the right people on the bus, and, more importantly, I've got to get them sitting in the right seats."
The roster, the one that crashed so dramatically this season, is viewed by most as a hodgepodge of mismatched parts that don't fit together.
But Collins sees the roster as an assortment of workable parts that had success in the past but for a multitude of reasons couldn't put it together this season.
"This team, 2 years in a row, was in the playoffs and won 41 games [in 2008-09]," Collins said. "We have some players on the team that I am going to have to revitalize, get their joy in the game back."
Collins sounded like a teacher going through his class list and giving a brief synopsis of his students.
What's the deal with Andre Iguodala?
"I didn't see the same hard edge that I saw the year before," Collins said when asked about Iguodala's so-so 2009-2010 season. "I don't know what it was. He can be tough and he can bring toughness to this team.
"Andre Iguodala should be an all-league defensive player at the small forward position."
Why shouldn't Elton Brand simply be viewed as an overpriced lost cause?
"Elton is going to be critical, and I've got to get him playing the way he is capable of playing," Collins said. "He has had 2 tough years coming off the Achilles and shoulder [injuries] and we've got to get him healthy and feeling good about himself."
"The NBA is a point guard-driven league," Collins noted. "That's why I'm excited because I think we've got a terrific young point guard to build around."
"I've got to get him back. He had a tough year, but the year before he played terrific."
Well, with Collins having to fly back to Phoenix for tonight's broadcast of the Western Conference finals, there weren't enough hours to delve into the intricacies of Sammy.
The point is Collins is a teacher.
With his experience as a player and coach, he has the tools necessary to accomplish his goal of making the Sixers "relevant again."
But are these players willing to listen?
Considering these Sixers are about to have their fifth coach in seven seasons, it's not difficult to see how they might be tuning out.
It was evident about midway through last season that they had stopped listening to former coach Eddie Jordan, and Collins' first, and most important, task will be getting them back.
"I think that all players want to be coached," Collins said. "The great players want to be coached and want to learn."
Collins, however, concedes that today's players did not "grow up with the tough coaches" who he had and are "sensitive." He said he knows he's got to find the correct balance of love and tough love.
And if they don't listen?
"Everywhere I've been I've taught and guys have wanted to be taught," Collins said. "I'm just a believer that deep down inside, guys want to learn.
"I'm a positive guy. I see it as this guy has some talent and I've got to get it out of him. Relationships don't happen by accident, they happen on purpose. You build trust, and once you have trust you have more of an idea to listen.
"I was taught by teachers. I have a basketball mind and I want to pass that on."
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