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Optimistic Doug Collins Takes His Place on the Bulls' Hot Seat

November 02, 1986|RANDY MINKOFF | United Press International

CHICAGO — The numbers indicate Doug Collins is likely to fail the same way as his eight predecessors in the past decade.

Collins is the ninth coach in the last 10 years for the Chicago Bulls, a team that has never won an NBA championship and infrequently makes the playoffs.

However, the youngest (35) coach in the NBA still has the enthusiasm he had when he was a star guard for the Philadelphia 76ers and he also has the optimism shared by such coaches before him as Stan Albeck, Kevin Loughery, Larry Costello and Paul Westhead.

Collins was aware of the merry-go-round of coaches in the team's past but that failed to sway him from leaving his position as a CBS television analyst and tackling the Bulls' job.

"Well, the job security here is that I'm confident I can do the job. One thing I've always had good feelings about is knowing my strenghths and weaknesses, and one thing I have never done is put myself into a situation where I couldn't handle a job," he said. "The security I have is the feelings I have for this organization. I also realize in the NBA if you win, you're safe. If you don't, you're not.

"Stability and loyalty are keys if you are to succeed. We have to go in the same direction. Obviously, it was a consideration before I took it. I lived in Phoenix, had five months off where I could play golf. But I wanted this job. The positives far outweigh the negatives."

Collins said he has always wanted to be a part of the organization dating back to his college days.

"The Chicago Bulls were always the team I wanted to play for, especially coming out of college," said Collins, who earned an Olympic berth after starring at Illinois State. "My junior year they tried to get me to sign hardship but I played in the Olympics. Even as late in my career when I had my knee injury there was talk of me coming here in a trade. So I'm here at last."

The Bulls, despite the presence of star Michael Jordan, have been mediocre almost from their inception nearly a quarter of a century ago. Collins believes his hard-nosed style can change things.

"I am a hard worker and I expect the players to do what I do," Collins said. "Hopefully, we can bring a winner to Chicago. If you win here, people will go crazy. I've played games at Chicago when the team was stronger and it was so noisy you couldn't hear. That's what we are after."

Other coaches have failed, however, and there is additional room for some doubt about Collins because he never has coached a game on any level. He served as an assistant briefly with Arizona State, an experience, along with his TV work, that he insisted will help him more than any other previous NBA coaching duties.

"I think a lot of people don't realize that when you are an assistant, you are getting better experience than being an assistant on the NBA level because of all the hats you wear. You recruit, you scout, plan practice, deal with alumni," Collins said. "As a broadcaster, I've been in a position to coach both teams. I'm thinking as a coach out there.

"Obviously there are questions. I've never coached, sure. Those questions will be answered soon enough."

Jerry Krause, the team's vice president of operations, is sensitive to the critics who have suggested Collins isn't prepared for what lies ahead.

"Don Nelson, who is considered as good as there is now, had 15 games as an assistant and he never coached as a head coach," Krause said. "Pat Riley came out of the broadcasting booth, Billy Cunningham never coached a game in his life, so it can be done and each time it's been done, it's been done by a winner like Doug Collins."

Obviously, Collins must have been enticed by Jordan's performance in last spring's three-game playoff sweep by the eventual NBA champion Boston Celtics. Jordan scored 63 points, setting an NBA record, but that also fueled criticism that the Bulls are a one-man team.

"There are some talented people on this ballclub," Collins said. "Obviously, you've got Michael Jordan. You've got a Charles Oakley, too, who is a legitimate power forward and you see that there is a good nucleus to build on."

Collins plans to combat any resentment toward Jordan's making it a one-player offense by trying to convince the rest of the roster that recognition can come to everyone if they do one thing: win.

"The winners in this business get the recognition. The guys who are great players don't get the recognition," he said. "Look at the NBA All-Star squad every year. Three guys from Boston, three from Philly, three from the Lakers. That comes from winning."

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