- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001

The Washington Wizards, who go through coaches as fast as any team in professional sports, introduced Doug Collins as their sixth in 25 months yesterday, less than 24 hours after former coach Leonard Hamilton announced his resignation following the last game of a 19-63 season.
Collins, 50, coached Wizards president of basketball operations Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls from 1986 to 1989, before Phil Jackson took over and led the Bulls to six championships. Collins also coached the Detroit Pistons from the start of the 1995 season until he was fired 45 games into the 1997-98 season. Since then he has worked as an NBA analyst for NBC.
"Why do I want this?" said Collins, believed to have signed a four-year deal at about $2 million per season. "Because Michael Jordan called me on the phone and said, 'I need you. Can you help me?' It was easy once he said that."
There will be nothing easy about fixing the troubled Wizards, whose record this season was the third-worst in the NBA as well as the worst in franchise history. Washington has not reached the playoffs since 1997 or won a postseason game since 1988. Its two best returning players are Richard Hamilton and Courtney Alexander, second- and first-year shooting guards still learning to play the game.
Collins acknowledged that the team, which should have a high lottery pick, could begin helping itself in the upcoming NBA Draft. But overall, he said, next season should not be about merely wins and losses.
"The whole thing about [2001-2002] is growth," Collins said. "And as a coach and as an organization, you know if you're getting that. It might not equate to X number of wins or whatever, but I've never been a doom and gloom guy. If I were, when I got kicked around when I was 16 I would have never gotten up. I'm passionate. Don't prejudge me. Just watch me work."
When Collins took over the Bulls, they were coming off a 30-52 season but improved by 10 wins in his first season. When he took over the Pistons, they improved by 18 wins to 46-36 in his first year. However, Collins sees the Wizards as his biggest challenge as a coach.
"When I went to Detroit, I had Grant Hill and Allen Houston, two young players that you knew you were going to get something from every night," Collins said. "That's not the case here. We've got some good players, but we're clearly in a rebuilding stage. What we can control is how hard we work. We can make sure that other teams don't work or play any harder than we do."
Collins' hiring closely followed Hamilton's resignation after one season. By resigning, Hamilton will not collect the remaining $6 million he was scheduled to be paid by the Wizards. Hamilton was selected by Jordan to coach the Wizards last season after coaching in college for 28 seasons, most recently at the University of Miami.
About 10 days ago, according to Jordan, Hamilton approached him and expressed doubts about his ability to do the job. Jordan said he heard uncertainty in Hamilton's voice and this prompted him to contact Collins to see if he had any interest.
"When we had conversations about 10 days ago, I could sense that it was taking its wear and tear on [Hamilton]," Jordan said. "We really did not come to any kind of conclusion. I took the initiative that Leonard was not feeling as comfortable as he probably would want to. I discussed it with Leonard, and he basically acknowledged that it was probably in his best interest to take a step back and evaluate what his motivations may be. At that time it was also the time for me to act in terms of evaluating other possible routes that we may have to go."
Jordan conceded that naming Hamilton last season was his mistake.
"I have to shoulder the blame of taking him out of a situation that was well suited for him at Miami and exposing him to a situation that I felt I needed him for and that maybe he wasn't as qualified for," Jordan said. "So it's unfortunate that things didn't work out. I think I put a guy into a situation that maybe he wasn't ready for, and he acknowledged that last night."
When the Bulls fired Collins following the 1989 season, some of the talk centered on what was considered to be a strained relationship between Collins and Jordan. Said Jordan yesterday: "That couldn't be further from the truth."
Collins will work the 2001 NBA playoffs for NBC, then dive headlong into the task of reviving the Wizards.
"My commitment to the team was when I told Michael I would be here," Collins said. "Michael knows me well enough to know that whenever I get involved with, anything I put my heart and soul into, I care sometimes too much. With that said, I'm going to do everything within my power to put together, with Michael and everybody else, a team that he and [majority owner Abe] Pollin can be proud of."
Pollin said selecting Collins is a step in the right direction.
"This is a great day for our organization," he said. "We've got a real winner to coach the team. It's unfortunate that it didn't work out with Coach Hamilton, but we've got to go forward."

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