Collins to Receive Hall of Fame Honor
Former Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins's career has often seemed to be about bad timing and bum luck. Right place, wrong time.
He was a star on the 1972 Olympic team that suffered a stunning and controversial loss to the Soviet Union in Munich. Collins hit two free throws to give the United States an apparent victory, but had to witness the most disheartening finish as Russia was given two chances to hit a game-winning field goal. The loss will sting forever.
The former No. 1 pick in the 1973 draft, Collins played on some highly talented but underachieving teams with the Philadelphia 76ers, making four all-star teams. But his 76ers were upset by Portland in the 1977 NBA Finals and he retired because of knee troubles in 1981 -- two years before they finally won an NBA championship over the Los Angeles Lakers.
He had the pleasure of coaching a young Michael Jordan, right when Jordan's career was skyrocketing with slam dunk titles and commercials with Spike Lee, but was fired two years before the Bulls started their run of six NBA championships.
He got to coach Grant Hill in his prime, but the Detroit Pistons never went anywhere in his three seasons with the team. He finished his coaching career as Jordan anguished through two unrewarding seasons with the Wizards. Right place, wrong time.
But those experiences have provided Collins with the foundation for a broadcasting career that resulted in him receiving the Curt Gowdy Media Award at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday night in Springfield, Mass. Longtime New York Post columnist and Hoop Du Jour Peter Vecsey will receive the print award.
"Anytime something like this happens, it's the byproduct of a lot of years," Collins, 58, said in a recent telephone interview. "You start thinking, this is not something that's a one-year deal. This is something that's a body of work. I think back, it's really 40 years for me. I think back to leaving high school in 1969 and my journey through college and in the NBA, playing and coaching."
"I think a big part of me being a broadcaster is all the years I spent as a player, both as a high school, college and NBA player and then as a coach," Collins said. "And all the different cities. You become a product of all of those experiences."
Collins started broadcasting with Turner in 1989, joined NBC after coaching in Detroit and he returned to announcing for TNT after he finished with the Wizards. Collins said the key to his style as a broadcaster is his ability to tell stories. "When I do a broadcast, I can talk about the game, but I can see it through the eyes of a player, I can see it through the eyes of a coach. I can see it through people that I've been around and learned from," Collins said. "What you do is, sort of take little bits and pieces from all those experiences and bring to the telecast so you make it a story. Every night is a story."
For once, the timing couldn't be better for Collins, who will also be honored at his alma mater on Sept. 19, when a statue of Collins and his college coach, the late Will Robinson, will be unveiled at Illinois State. Illinois State's Redbird Arena is already named after him.
"I never in my wildest imagination dreamed that I was going to be going into this broadcasting Hall of Fame, as Michael was going into the regular Hall of Fame," Collins said. "For me to be there on Thursday night and to be there on Friday for him is going to be a great weekend. Anytime things like this happen, you just lay in bed and sort of think back on all the times together and the games and the excitement and the joy and all."
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