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No denying it: Collins appears headed to Bulls
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Staff

Then-Bulls coach Doug Collins has a laugh with Michael Jordan during practice.


Daily Herald file photo

Coach Doug Collins chats with assistant Phil Jackson (yes, THAT Phil Jackson) during the Bulls' 1987-88 season.


Daily Herald file photo

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Published: 5/29/2008 12:04 AM | Updated: 5/29/2008 10:53 PM

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Both sides Thursday tried to shoot down reports that Doug Collins is about to begin his second run as head coach of the Bulls.

But the buzz remained strong and it appears likely that the Bulls and Collins already have eloped in Las Vegas. Now it's just a matter of holding a formal reception for the relatives.

"The whole thing is, there's interest on both sides and as soon as the Western Conference finals are over, which is what my No. 1 priority is, we've agreed to sit down and talk to see exactly what's there," Collins said before Thursday's TNT broadcast of the Spurs-Lakers Game 5.

One league insider said he found out Collins was headed to the Bulls on Wednesday but was told to keep it under wraps until Collins completes his broadcasting duties in the Western finals.

Bulls general manager John Paxson wouldn't go any further than acknowledging that he has had conversations with Collins.

"Contrary to some reports that are currently out there, we have not reached an agreement," Paxson wrote in an e-mail statement. "When (the Western finals) conclude, we will continue our dialogue. In the meantime, I will continue to talk to other candidates and review our options."

Asked by TNT colleague Craig Sager why he's ready to return to NBA coaching after a five-year absence, Collins said it was because he was encouraged to do so by his son Chris, the former Glenbrook North star who is now an assistant at Duke.

Many league observers believe Collins could have the vacant Phoenix Suns job if he wanted it and stay close to his current residence of Scottsdale, Ariz.

Perhaps Collins was drawn to the Bulls after they won the top pick of the draft. A source close to Collins believes he would prefer Memphis point guard Derrick Rose at No. 1.

Paxson has conducted several interviews over the past month, and it seems logical to bring in a lead assistant who would be groomed to take over for Collins someday. But a team source confirmed that nothing is close to happening on that end.

Unless this scenario falls apart completely, the next question is whether hiring Collins is a good idea.

Collins' intensity seemed to get the best of him when he coached the Bulls from 1986-89 and Detroit from 1995-98. He clearly mellowed by the time he accepted his third coaching job, with Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards from 2001-03.

But that also was where Collins had the least success, failing to reach the playoffs in two seasons.

"I'm a little surprised, actually," former Bulls center Will Perdue said in an interview with ESPN radio. "I don't doubt Doug's skills whatsoever. I played for the guy. He definitely knows the X's and O's. It just seems like the players these days seem to be a little more emotional, a little more sensitive.

"Doug's the kind of guy, he has a certain style and he coaches much like he played -- he wears his emotions on his sleeve and a lot of guys just don't seem to like that. That just depends on the personality of that team, and John Paxson knows that team much better than I do right now."

Collins' teams also were known for playing a methodical style, which may not translate well to today's higher-scoring NBA.

His greatest post-Bulls' success was leading the Pistons to 46 and 54 wins in his first two years. Both of those teams ranked second in the league in points allowed but also sat among the bottom six in scoring offense.

"He knows how to discipline young players," former Bulls forward Horace Grant said on WMVP AM-1000. "What you see is what you're going to get from Doug Collins. He's going to be patient, but he's not going to bend his ways with these young players.

"If they want to challenge him, I'll tell you right now, don't do it because you'll lose. You will lose."