Doug Collins is reportedly close to getting a second go-around in Chicago as head coach of the Bulls just about two decades after he was escorted to the door there after the 1988-89 season on the eve of a dynasty about to blossom. If hired, this would be Collins' fourth shot at a head coaching job following a roller-coaster tour-of-duty in Detroit in the 1990s and an awkward stint baby-sitting the Michael Jordan Washington Wizards earlier this decade.
Three decades. Three teams. Three strikes. But in the NBA, apparently you're (almost) never out. Especially if you can talk a good game and as a TV analyst, Collins can talk as good a game as anyone.
Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson, who played for Collins, said in a statement that he has been in contact with his old coach but that a deal has not been finalized. However, after losing out on former Phoenix coach Mike D'Antoni to the New York Knicks, it's hard to imagine Chicago not corralling Collins and turning their new coach search into an Easter egg hunt.
So assuming Collins is the guy in Chicago, there is a temptation to call his hiring a classic case of coach recycling. The good old boy network at work. Larry Brown Redux.
But I think the Bulls could have done a lot worse. Collins just might be the right guy for the right team at the right time. On the plus side, Collins is believed to be a teacher who can shape young talent. He's also been a quick-turnaround coach; all three of his previous teams showed double-digit win improvements in his first seasons. On the other hand, the knock on Collins is that he has been high-strung. When his players need the Rock of Gibraltar, they get Krakatoa.
Interestingly, the fiery Collins' replacement in Chicago was an assistant who defined stoicism, Phil Jackson. But even though Collins may have gotten on MJ's last nerve with the Bulls, Jordan thought enough of his old coach to hire him in Washington.
But back to the 2008 Chicago Bulls. It's clear that the Bulls wanted a known quantity. They unsuccessfully chased D'Antoni. Then, things brightened for the Bulls when they hit a 50-to-1 shot in winning the top pick in the NBA lottery. They already have a decent, relatively young nucleus that underperformed last season. And now they have a shot at either Kansas State forward Michael Beasley or Memphis point guard Derrick Rose.
In Collins, they're getting a gifted communicator who now has 20 years of reflection and mellowing under his belt since his flame-out in Chicago the first time. You know, sometimes even leftovers are better the second day.