If you know anything about Doug Collins, it's simply impossible not to love the guy or at least have a generous level of sincere affection for him. The new 76ers coach is honest and genuine. He's passionate about what he does. And he's committed to excellence and doing things the right way - which is precisely why the best thing about his arrival is that we will finally learn about Andre Iguodala.
Collins should not have bothered showing up for Monday's news conference. He should've put an APB out on Iguodala - and his game - instead, and made modifying any-and-all things about Iguodala his top priority.
Otherwise, it makes no sense for Collins to have taken the job.
Coaches coach, but they also know what everyone else knows: It's players who win games and championships, elevate a city's fervor, and establish traditions. That Iguodala, the closest thing to a star this team has, hasn't been able to do that is not the issue. What matters is that he has appeared to be so uninterested in doing so.
"I didn't see the same hard edge that I saw the year before," Collins said of Iguodala, a player he rarely had the luxury of covering as an analyst for TNT because of the Sixers' lack of participation in meaningful games.
"I didn't see that tough competitive edge because [Iguodala] can be very tough and he can bring toughness to this team. To me, if he's an all-league defender at the three spot, that means that we're able to get out and run. That's what [Iguodala] does best."
Actually, that's not entirely accurate. At least according to some members of the Sixers' organization.
In the waning days of last season, instead of Iguodala resembling the high-flying, athletic, chiseled-tone athlete that made him the No. 9 overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, he was a modern-day prima donna, too good to be confined to the same constraints as the rest of the team, and entirely too good to waste time absorbing any instructions from his former coach, Eddie Jordan. At least that's the impression Iguodala purportedly perpetuated.
Nevertheless, Iguodala still averaged a team-leading 17.1 points per game. Still grabbed 6.5 rebounds. Still recorded 5.8 assists per game. But he did it while being dismissive of his coach and team personnel hired to work with the players. Iguodala employed his own instructors, along with his own regimen.
Before Christmas, it was clear the Sixers were heading for the lottery instead of the playoffs. And although Iguodala had played all 82 games, averaging nearly 39 minutes per night along the way, on far too many occasions it seemed like he didn't even care to be around.
Collins accurately pointed out that the Sixers were 20-54 when they shot worse than 55 percent last season. He knows it meant that the defense didn't get the job done, which means Iguodala didn't get the job done. And in order for that to turn around, for them to get better offensively, they'll need to create their own opportunities on the defensive end. That part is not going to get done without Iguodala.
The key to Collins' success will be reading between the lines, sometimes his own. When he says: "Andre Iguodala should be an all-league defensive player at small forward." Or, that he was told by [Lakers coach] Phil Jackson before Tuesday's Game 3 of the Western Conference finals that "Iguodala plays well against Kobe Bryant, or more specifically, 'That young kid has a lot of skill,' " it's important for Collins to recognize that such compliments could work against him.
It's one thing for Iguodala to view every opponent as if they're Kobe Bryant, hawking them with reckless abandon, on a mission to prove he belongs on the same court as one of the world's greatest players. It's another thing entirely when you're represented by the same agent as Bryant, looking for the same dollars, the same cachet, foolishly believing you deserve the same acclaim when you've never sniffed a championship. When you're devoid of box-office appeal.
Bryant's laudables have already been earned. Iguodala still has some ways to go. And although he's certainly a classy kid, capable of elevating his game to new heights, humility and a willingness to be coached will have to come first.
Can Collins pull it off? Who knows. We'll see. But this much we know for sure:
The city of Philadelphia wishes Collins luck. It has his back, at least for the time being.
That alone should be enough to keep Iguodala on the right path.
Or so the Sixers pray. As we all should.