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O, BY THE WAY

Bulls woo ex-coach almost 20 years after firing

On Doug Collins

May 30, 2008|By BILL ORDINE

Doug Collins is reportedly close to getting a second go-round in Chicago as coach of the Bulls, just about two decades after he was fired there after the 1988-89 season on the eve of the blossoming of a dynasty. If he is hired, it would be Collins' fourth head coaching job after a roller-coaster tour of duty in Detroit in the 1990s and an awkward stint baby-sitting Michael Jordan's 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 vice president of basketball operations John Paxson, who played for Collins, said in a statement that he has been in contact with Collins but that a deal has not been finalized. However, after losing out on former Phoenix Suns coach Mike D'Antoni to the New York Knicks, it's hard to imagine Chicago not corralling Collins and turning the new coach search into an embarrassing 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 also has 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 is 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 might have gotten on Jordan's last nerve with the Bulls, Jordan thought enough of his old coach to hire him in Washington.

But back to the current Bulls. It's clear that the team wanted a known quantity. It 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 have a decent, relatively young nucleus that underperformed this season. And now they have a shot at Kansas State forward Michael Beasley or Memphis point guard Derrick Rose.

In Collins, they're getting a gifted communicator who has about 20 years of reflection and mellowing under his belt since his flameout in Chicago the first time. Sometimes even leftovers are better the second day.

bill.ordine@baltsun.com

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