CHICAGO -- Every time it seems like you've seen the end of Doug Collins on an NBA sideline, he surprises you. He did it again this summer when he came back to coach the Philadelphia 76ers, his fourth career head coaching job in the league. His ability to “retire” and come back may remind some of another athlete who has made that an art form over the past few years -- Brett Favre.
Whatever you do, don't mention those similarities to Collins.
"Am I that much of a diva?" Collins asked reporters before Tuesday night's Chicago Bulls-76ers game.
"I don't know if that's a great comparison," he continued. "Maybe love of the game. How about love of that game? How about that?"
For Collins, it doesn't matter much why he came back, just that he did. He loves coaching the game and coming back to a place he calls home. He coached the Bulls for three seasons in the late 80s before Phil Jackson came to town and he almost coached them again in the 2008-09 season, before he and Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf decided it may be too tough on their personal relationship for him to take the job one more time. Despite some of the friction of years gone by, Collins is always happy to be back in the Windy City.
"When I was coming back with TNT and broadcasting and doing the Bulls games … walking up and down Michigan Avenue, people yelling at you, ‘Coach, how are you doing? Good to see you. Thanks for all you've done,’” Collins said. "I coached here three years and people around here make me think I was here 30. And that's really what this organization is all about. I had about five or six people stop in and say hi to me, who were all working here when I worked here before. [Bulls owner] Jerry Reinsdorf is an incredibly loyal guy. And this organization is filled with wonderful, wonderful people. It was funny, Jerry texted me today and said, "You're catching us at a good time, we're beat up." He said, "Good luck when you leave Chicago." So I said, ‘Thank you so much.’ It was nice that he reached out and said hi to me today."
Collins appears content with his decision to come back and coach the Sixers and with the legacy he will leave whenever he really does retire.
"The reason [I came back is] I'm a teacher," he said. "I knew I was always going to do it again. My wife and I knew that and my family and I knew that. There were two cities that I thought about, Chicago and Philadelphia, and it was all family related ... Do I feel like this is home? Absolutely. Lived here 10 years. My kids graduated from Glenbrook North. They loved it here. My son [Chris] was Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois. I played at Illinois State. My boyhood idol growing up was Jerry Sloan. A lot of people don't realize on draft day I was traded to the Bulls. The trade fell through and I ended up playing for the 76ers ... so if I was going to do it again it was going to be in a place where my wife was very happy. And in Philadelphia she's at my daughter's house four to five days a week and is very, very happy.
"We're one hour away from [our son, Duke assistant coach] Chris down in Raleigh/Durham and Duke. And I wanted to go to a team that I thought had some young pieces. I've been sort of a builder. That's sort of who I've been in my career. I've never been the one left standing at the end with the ring, but the one thing I've always tried to do is go places and whenever I leave them I hope they've been better for me being there. And that's what I'm trying to do in Philadelphia."