Doug Collins, NBC's lead NBA commentator, has one of the best jobs in sports television. Heck, he has one of the best jobs anywhere.
On Saturday, he'll be courtside in Dallas with Marv Albert for the playoff game between the Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs. On Sunday, he and Albert will be in Sacramento for the fourth game of the Laker-King series.
During the week, he plays golf in and around Scottsdale, Ariz., where he lives.
So why would Collins give up his NBC job and nice life to become coach of the Washington Wizards, who were 19-63 this season?
Charles Barkley said this week it was an indication that he knew team President Michael Jordan was coming back to play for the Wizards next season.
"No, that's not true," Collins said Thursday from Scottsdale.
"Michael first called me about 10 days before I accepted the job [April 19]. What I told Michael is that I would only consider taking the job if he was coming back to run the team, and he told me he was.
"He also told me he was working out and considering coming back as a player, but he wouldn't make a decision about that until later this summer."
They have been close since Collins coached Jordan with the Chicago Bulls 16 years ago.
"People are always asking me if he's coming back, and I tell them I don't know anything more than anyone else," Collins said.
"Michael is very much his own person with his own mind. He'll think about what he wants to do, and then make his decision on his own.
"Next season could be a huge year for the organization, and he knows that. He has created about $16 million to $20 million of cap room to rebuild this team."
And might it help lure some top free agents if Jordan is on the player roster?
"Absolutely," Collins said. "And he knows that."
High on Lakers
It's hardly news that Collins is high on the Lakers. Now, everybody is. What's different about Collins is that he was never down on them.
"There was all this doom and gloom, but I knew it would just be an amount of time," he said.
Collins said he thought Coach Phil Jackson was correct in his handling of the feud between Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant.
"Phil didn't mind a little crisis at the time," Collins said. "He thought it might galvanize the team. And he looked at the standings and saw no one running away with it, so there was no reason to panic."
Collins thinks the schedule has also helped the Lakers click at the right time.
"With their final four regular-season games at home, they've had only one road game since playing in Minnesota [April 8]," he said. "That has helped them a lot."
Scully Easing Back
Chick Hearn and Vin Scully are often grouped because they are L.A. broadcasting icons. But there are differences.
For one thing, Hearn wants to work every game. Scully does not.
Scully missed a Dodger series in Cincinnati last week, even though all three games were televised on Fox Sports Net 2. He just wanted some time off.
He'll miss a three-game series in Montreal next week because none of the games are televised.
This is the second season Scully has not done radio. For televised games, two innings are simulcast, but that's it.
Not doing radio was something Scully began to consider once Fox bought the team and doubled the number of cable telecasts to 80 a year.
"The problem was appeasing the radio sponsors," Scully said. "Then somebody came up with the idea of the two-inning simulcast."
Now all Scully needs is a little relief on the televised games. He has to do all nine innings, a plus for the viewers but a grind for the person behind the microphone.
NBC's first Kentucky Derby got an 8.1 national rating, a 40% increase over ABC's 5.8 for last year's race. . . . Heading into the Mother's Day weekend break, NASCAR races are averaging a 6.6 on Fox. They were averaging a 5.4 at this juncture on ABC and CBS last year. . . . FX got a 4.0 national rating in cable households for its first Winston Cup race, Saturday's Pontiac Excitement 400. It attracted 4.5 million viewers, the largest audience in FX's seven-year history. . . . FX also scored with the Toughman finals last Friday, getting a 3.2 cable rating. That's up from last year's 2.7. . . . The final two King telecasts on Fox Sports Net got 3.5 and 3.6 ratings, the highest L.A. ratings for hockey since 1997.
Welcome back: Angel commentator Rex Hudler, sidelined because of a minor brain hemorrhage, is scheduled to return Tuesday or Wednesday. . . . ESPN's revamped "The Life" scored big this week with its Shaquille O'Neal profile. The next edition, debuting Saturday at 7 a.m., features Tony Siragusa. . . . Karl Malone and Grant Hill are included in a Mother's Day NBA special, "NBA Cafe: Most Valuable Moms," on the Food Network Sunday at 9 p.m. . . . Tonight's edition of "SportsCentury" on ESPN Classic features Hank Greenberg and delves into the anti-Semitism he experienced.