NBA GM: New Sixers Coach Doug Collins Is a “Prima Donna”

And he'll drive everybody crazy. But he's still the best pick for this lousy team

The assessment was clear and definitive. For the first time in a while, the Sixers hadn’t screwed up their coaching search. No more Randy Ayers debacles. Eddie Jordan wouldn’t be standing on the sideline, looking befuddled after trying to impose his offense on an unwilling — and incapable — team. Tony DiLeo. Chris Ford. Jim O’Brien. Not this time.

“They got the best coach on the market,” an NBA general manager says. [SIGNUP]

Doug Collins has returned to Philadelphia with a mandate to turn the Sixers into winners again, and it says here the team will win at least 15 more games in 2010-11 than it did during last year’s dreadful campaign. That means a minimum of 42 wins. They will be above .500 for the first time since that magical ’04-05 season, when the Sixers were a robust 43-39 and extended the Pistons to five whole games before heading to the golf course.

Collins is exactly what the Sixers need. He is one of the best defensive coaches in the NBA, understands how to put players in the best situations for their talents offensively — goodbye, Princeton offense — and won’t take any crap when moody millionaire centers miss their naps or overpaid wing men hire their own shooting coaches (who should be fired, by the way). In other words, Collins is a full-fledged, grown-up NBA coach who will be in charge and won’t accept anything less than maximum effort from his players.

“He will command respect from the guys on the team who have been around the league and know what a fraud is,” the GM says. “Collins is a great basketball guy who will teach them the game.”

A little disclosure is in order here — but not too much, since our GM demands anonymity. He does business in the Western Conference and has a strong knowledge of the Sixers, their roster and their plight. His appraisal of the Sixers’ previous regime: “Eddie Jordan quit two minutes after getting the job,” he says. Ouch.

We have heard all about Collins’ legendary intensity, and we know that he studies the game of basketball. But how will he put it all together for the Sixers? Well, let’s start with the team’s biggest, and to this point most disappointing, asset, power forward Elton Brand. Despite Brand’s injury problems and lack of production since he came to Philadelphia, no Sixers fan may criticize his signing, since he was welcomed practically as the second coming of Moses Malone when he joined the team.

But Brand has been used the wrong way during both of his seasons in Philadelphia. During his truncated, injury-marred 2008-09 debut, he was asked to run like a deer and fill the lanes. Bad idea. Last year, he was expected to play intuitive basketball. Worse idea.

“He is an awful decision maker,” the GM says. “He’s a terrible passer, and he has no lift.”

Brand is, however, excellent on the pick-and-roll, when he can spring loose for mid-range jump shots. Collins knows that, and he’ll use second-year point guard Jrue Holiday with Brand in such situations. He’ll also deploy Brand in the low post, but not to draw double-teams and kick it out, rather against smaller defenders whom Brand can overpower. On the defensive end, where Brand is a liability in one-on-one situations, Collins’ rotation patterns will suit him perfectly.

So, Brand gets an immediate boost. Holiday will thrive, too, since he’s an excellent pick-and-roll point guard and a strong defender who can play on the ball or in a team concept. Better still, he’s a “gym rat,” who will mesh well with Collins’ perfectionist personality. Sounds like the new guy is two-for-two.

Another beneficiary of Collins’ arrival is shooter Jason Kapono. Now, he may not seem so important to you, seeing how Jordan used him frequently as Ben Roethlisberger employs common sense, but NBA teams need air cover. Kapono can provide that, provided he can get some room. And that’s where Iguodala comes in. While Holiday and Brand are playing pick-and-roll, Iguodala can — and don’t laugh at this — “be used like Dwyane Wade is in Miami” — or so says the GM. Before you decide that statement undermines his credibility completely, understand that Collins (and everybody else in the NBA) knows that Wade and Iguodala are not the same player, except for their desire to have the ball in their hands. So, Collins will use Iguodala that way. Not in an irresponsible fashion, but to maximize his strengths. Let him create opportunities. If the defense sags, Kapono will be open to make them pay.

As for Samuel Dalembert, there is hope — for two reasons. First, Collins doesn’t tolerate malcontents. Second, if Dalembert refuses to become a rebounding, defending force, he and his expiring contract will be shipped to whatever team is silly enough to offer more than a pack of gum in return. Collins will also help Thaddeus Young become “a big three.” He can make Marreese Speights productive consistently. He can, well, you get the picture. “Doug will know how to use guys and motivate them,” the GM says.

There is, however, a downside. Collins is, how shall I say it, a pain in the ass.

“He’s a prima donna. He’s high maintenance, and he will drive everybody crazy,” the GM says. “But when he gets into the gym and closes the doors, there’s nobody who does a better job.”

Sounds like a fair tradeoff. Sixers GM Ed Stefanski and the players go a little nuts, and pro basketball becomes relevant in Philadelphia again.

Fifteen more wins.

Count on it.

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