Meanwhile, the man who replaced him in Chicago—his former assistant Phil Jackson—would win six championships with his old team. Collins started telling people that if he ever wrote an autobiography, he'd call it, Always a Winner, But Never a Champion.
Still, he gave. He was vacationing on Hilton Head Island when the 76ers won the title. He cheered. His family didn't ask him much about the Olympics "because it's too hurtful," Chris says. "There's anger there." But every four years reporters would want to talk to him about it, and every four years Collins would answer their questions. When he was an announcer on Bulls playoff broadcasts, he told viewers that Jackson was the perfect coach for that team.
For 20 years he was one of the great color commentators in sports, appealing to both casual fans and experts. (Spoelstra says even coaches learned about the game from listening to Collins.) Two years ago Collins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame—as a broadcaster. It was well-deserved, and also fitting. They did not induct him for his playing career or his coaching record. They inducted him for his ability to see the game.
When the 76ers called Collins last summer, Kathy and the kids told him they would support him if he took the job, under one condition: He had to enjoy it.
And he has. Collins loves his team. He has not had to fine anybody for being late to a practice or bus ride the entire year. "Unheard of," he says. Chris was worried about him coaching such a young group, but Doug prefers it. It gives him a chance to teach players before bad habits become ingrained.
He delegates almost all the defensive strategy to his assistants—they tell him the plan, and he gives his approval.
"Maybe one or two times has he kind of overrode it the whole season," Curry says.
Collins says his assistants have "taken half the workload off of my plate," but really, he shoved half his workload onto theirs. He doesn't want his players overdosing on Doug Collins.
"When I need to say something, I say it," he said. "When they hear my voice, I want it to be important. And I don't want them to hear it too much."
Collins inherited a 20-year-old point guard, Jrue Holiday, who admits, "There was a period where I was just throwing the ball away." Collins harnessed Holiday without slowing him down. Now Collins sees Holiday as a future All-Star, and Holiday says, "There's been times when we've messed up and he handled it well. He says if he was younger, then he would have just killed us. My career is going in the right way because of him, because he's here."