Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Collins proved over the past week that he deserves the NBA Coach of the Year Award. With the Milwaukee Bucks trying to edge his 76ers out of the playoffs, he rallied his troops and secured the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference on Monday, crushing the New Jersey Nets 105-87 to top off a three-game win streak.
In the 1980s and 1990s, when he was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls and Detroit Pistons, Collins made five playoff runs, reaching the Conference Finals with the Bulls in 1989. From 2001 to 2003, he was reunited with former Chicago forward Michael Jordan as head coach of the Washington Wizards, failing to reach the playoffs both seasons he was with them. Then in 2010, Collins returned to coaching, accepting the head coaching job in Philadelphia. In his first season he got the team to the playoffs with a .500 win-loss record. They then went on to lose 4-1 to the Miami Heat in the First Round.
This year, the 76ers went 34-30, but their .031 winning percentage increase was overshadowed by a drop from seventh seed last season to eighth seed this season. Collins’ .531 record would be the third lowest of any Coach of the Year, but despite the low winning percentage, a solid case can be made for why Collins is Coach of the Year material.
After losing All-Star guard Allen Iverson for the second time in 2010, the 76ers were left without a go-to scorer. Since then, Collins has done a magnificent job of readjusting the roles of veteran forwards Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala, who are 33 and 28 respectively, to maximize their contributions to the team. Igoudala has always been a supporting player, so point guard Jrue Holiday was appointed as the team leader. Holiday is a playmaker, but also coordinates and distributes the ball well. Iguodala, who has fulfilled his supporting role admirably, has not been shooting as much this season, instead averaging a career high 6.1 rebounds and a team high 5.5 assists.
Collins’ management of the bench is by far his most impressive accomplishment this year. Of the five players that averaged double-digits in scoring, two of them were bench players. Ironically, the top scorer this year was guard Lou Williams, with 14.9 points per game, who is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate. Collins made Williams into one of the most consistent bench players in the league this year, putting him in at the right stretches, allowing him to score at least 10 points off the bench in 51 games this season. Collins’ decision to keep former starting center Spencer Hawes on the bench has also been fruitful, as Hawes has continued to put up starting numbers, while being able to rest his injured Achilles tendon and give rookie center Nikola Vucevic a chance to gain experience.
Collins’ starting lineup is quite young; the five players are 25 years old on average. The highest scorer, who is a bench player, does not even post 15 points per game. Yet Collins has gotten his team to the playoffs two years in a row, easily earning the Coach of the Year Award.
Ondo is a member of the class of 2014.