Basketball through a coach’s eyes

Basketball through a coach’s eyes

By Michael Davis

Basketball is more than a game for Doug Collins. Basketball is “his life.” And Monday night, students from across Northwestern University heard some of his most precious stories from a lifetime in basketball, stemming from the court to the sideline to the broadcast booth.

The event, titled “Basketball Through A Coach’s Eyes,” was hosted on campus by J.A. Adande, director of sports journalism at Medill.

Speaking before a full McCormick Foundation Center Forum, Collins shared personal anecdotes about coaching Michael Jordan while with the Chicago Bulls and Washington Wizards, memories of his playing days with the Philadelphia 76ers and his approach to the art of broadcasting.

Here are my Top 5 moments from the event:

1. Collins broke down MJ’s iconic game-winning shot against the Utah Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals. Collins broadcast the game, and he not only described the intricate details of what led to the historic moment, but he also gave valuable insight of how to tell a story from a broadcasting perspective.

2. Collins went on to describe another vintage MJ moment: “The Shot,” the series-winning basket over Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 1989 playoffs. Collins, who was coaching the Bulls at that time, retold the how he drew up the play, and also how intense game film preparation informed his coaching staff how the Cavaliers’ Larry Nance would defend the in-bounds pass. Collins told Jordan exactly how he needed to fake one way and go another. He said that with the time left on the clock, he’d have exactly “two dribbles” before needing to take the shot. Collins said he was certain the shot would be good, the only question was whether the in-bounds pass would work.

3. Collins was touched when Jordan asked him to come to the Wizards and become the head coach in 2001. Collins reflected on a moment from his time with Washington when he benched an aging Jordan toward the end of a game, snapping the legend’s streak of consecutive games with double-digit points at 866 (still an NBA record). Later on the bus, Jordan asked if Collins thought he could still play at a high level, or if he had lost his game. Collins said he believed in Jordan. It was a sensitive moment as Collins shared the story. In his next two games, Jordan went on to score 51 points and 45 points, respectively. Ninety-six points in two nights. Collins remembered it all in perfect detail.

4. Collins is as much an expert at broadcasting as he is at coaching. Collins actually brought with him his broadcasting homework, a color-coordinated sheet of paper referred to as the “Hubie Sheet” (after legendary broadcaster and NBA coach Hubie Brown). The sheet details each team’s roster, with notes in green, red and blue. Green signifies a player’s weakness, red represents a strength and blue is a past statistic or note.

5. Collins shared three main takeaways with the students in the audience:

  • Prepare for your career by focusing on doing work that has the long-term view in mind, not the short term.
  • Be critical as a reporter, but never mean spirited (attributes he used to describe Adande).
  • For fantasy basketball players, scoop up James Harden right way. Collins believes Harden is set to put up big numbers under the high-intensity scoring system of new head coach Mike D’Antoni.