Game 1: Homecoming of sorts for Philly's Collins

Game 1: Homecoming of sorts for Philly's Collins
April 28, 2012, 5:18 pm
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Doug Collins is very familiar with Chicago.

Collins was born in Benton, Ill., and attended Illinois State University, where the court in Redbird Arena is named after him. The 76ers made him the first overall pick in the 1973 draft and he went on to play eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 17.9 points per game.

The Bulls gave him his first shot as a head coach in the 1986-87 season and he spent three years on the sideline in Chicago. The Bulls played in Chicago Stadium back then, so Collins never coached in the United Center.

Collins said his return to Chicago is a "very special feeling" and says he still keeps in touch with Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and others within the organization.

"It's interesting -- Jerry Reinsdorf and I have become the best of friends," Collins said. "We spoke about a month ago for an hour on the phone. He's reached out to me and maybe we'll get a chance to go out to dinner while we're here. He's been a very special guy.

"Bulls VP of basketball operations John Paxson is like a son to me, so I have very strong feelings about him. All the people who work for this organization, basically, they're still here."

Collins coached Michael Jordan during his three years in the league and took the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 1989 playoffs, in which they beat the Cavaliers 101-100 in a thrilling Game 5 thanks to a Jordan jumper.

"I was telling our guys the other day. I remember our '89 run when we got to the conference finals," he said. "I remember flying to Cleveland and thinking about what I was going to say to our guys for Game 5. It was interesting -- the Kentucky Derby was that day and the winner was 'Sunday Silence.' And I just told them that's what it was going to be in Cleveland. And then Michael hit the shot."

Collins hasn't been in Chicago since that 1989 season, but he still has a lot of respect for the Bulls and the city.

"This is a special organization," he said. "Not many teams can have the championship runs that they've had, win 12 games the next year and have sell-outs.

"This is a very special city. They have embraced me. I don't have any championship rings. Jerry's given me six championship watches with great notes that I kept very proudly. I haven't been here since '89. But when I walk down the street, the bus drivers are honking and waving and the fans say how much they appreciated my time. I love this. I love this city and it's going to be interesting to see. I'm sure they're not going to be lovely to me today, but it's a very special place."