- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

WILMINGTON, N.C. The Washington Wizards who went through training camp last year and only five of them remain on the roster already see the difference having a veteran coach can make.
Five days into training camp, most of them say there is no wasted time. Last season under Leonard Hamilton, the practices at times exceeded three hours. However, rarely do successor Doug Collins' two-a-day sessions exceed two hours. They are quick, concise and full of teaching.
"Doug is here for a reason," said Michael Jordan, who hired Collins one day after Hamilton resigned following a two-hour meeting at the end of last season with Jordan, then part owner and president of basketball operations.
That Collins runs a smooth and organized practice is simply a result of him having done this before. He coached Jordan in Chicago from 1986 through 1989 and Detroit from 1995 through 1998.
Hamilton, although he coached extensively at the college level, had no pro experience before Jordan who has since admitted it was perhaps a mistake hired him last summer.
"With Coach Collins here, everything we do is for a purpose," Richard Hamilton said. "Everything has a purpose. It's a lot more organized. There's not a lot of sitting around, even though he teaches a whole lot."
Hamilton pointed out the importance of having a coach with experience and indirectly took a shot at the former coach.
"Just the simple fact that you're playing with a coach that has a background, not a guy that just came out of anywhere and you don't have a lot of respect for him from the get-go [helps]. This guy, you've got to have a lot of respect for him because of what he's done."
Under Hamilton, the Wizards finished 19-63, their worst record ever. However, all the blame certainly can't be placed on him. His top veterans last year principally guards Rod Strickland and Mitch Richmond reported to camp out of shape, suffered training camp injuries and spent most of last season hobbling around and being disgruntled with how they were used.
Couple that with the fact that the 2000-2001 Wizards didn't have much talent to begin with and it's hard to imagine anyone coaxing 30 wins from that team. Still, the holdovers feel that Collins' initial week has been one full of positives.
"The difference is that everything we do revolves around making us a better team," guard Chris Whitney said. "We have a young team, but the coaching staff is very knowledgeable. They show you what to do.
"Last year we were doing a lot of drills that to me were somewhat unnecessary. They were college drills, and that's what we started calling them. Every drill here is related to our defense and our offense. When we put it all together, it's what we're trying to get accomplished when we're in the game."
Last season the only thing Tyrone Nesby did that raised any eyebrows was curse out Hamilton in January while the Wizards were en route to a 101-95 home loss to Milwaukee. That cost him a starting job and put him in Hamilton's doghouse for the rest of the season.
Now Nesby, too, attributes the better attitude of the team in large part to Collins' arrival
"Last year everything around here was unorganized," said Nesby, who has shed almost 15 pounds since last season to get his weight down to about 230. "The coach came out of college and he was way over his head.
"This year everything is organized. You throw Mike in there and it's like we've got two coaches who know a whole lot about basketball out there. I think that's the way it should be."

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