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Comfortably dumbfounded

It's still very weird to imagine. Doug Collins? Doug? Collins? This was the "new vibe" Paxson was searching for all these weeks?

It can be looked at least as a return to known competence. Any coach who isn't that last coach they had (and shall not be named) will get this team back to respectability. They're a roster too talented to be this bad, and with any kind of motivation can become a top-5 defense again. A hire of someone with any experience and talent will do that, and we can say that much for Collins.

A first-time coach could potentially do that as well, but I'm guessing that bringing in the #1 overall pick may have raised the stakes for Pax, and a first-time (or lesser-known multi-time) coach was deemed too risky.

But still: Doug Collins?

He's certainly an intelligent coach, recently evidenced by his work on TV (note: at least they didn't hire Mark Jackson). Gene Wojciechowski relays some choice quotes to support it:

The late David Halberstam once wrote of Collins: "He was passionate, extremely driven, and very bright. No one understood the flow of a game better than Collins. Sometimes it seemed to his players that he was almost too smart."

Former Collins and Bulls assistant Johnny Bach told Halberstam, "If you could call 30 timeouts a game, he'd win every game."

Unfortunately, it seems like Collins coaches as if he does have 30 timeouts a game, having his team walk the ball up so slowly he can have more than enough time to get his message in. Hollinger (and many astute commenters here noted this first, btw) breaks it down:

Collins might be the most extreme slow-pace coach in the past quarter century. I'm amazed nobody has brought this up yet -- the guy makes Jeff Van Gundy look like Paul Westhead.

His Bulls were the league's slowest-paced team in 1986-87 and 1987-88, even with Michael Jordan at the peak of his athleticism. Scottie Pippen became a starter in 1988-89, yet Collins had the Bulls playing at the third-slowest pace in the NBA.

His Pistons, with a young Grant Hill, were the league's second-slowest team in both seasons Collins coached in Detroit. And his Wizards were 26th and 27th out of 29 teams in his two years at the helm in Washington.

A big red flag for those of us who think this roster is better suited to run. A roster that will likely include Derrick Rose very soon.

One slow team I can give Collins a slight pass for is the Jordan Wiz, as he had to cater to Jordan's shot legs. Though you can consider catering to Jordan being a longstanding issue as well, especially when he insisted on relying on older talent to surround Jordan, a problem Hollinger notes has followed him through his several stops in the league (though not as much as in Washington. And, like most things, that situation can be blamed on Michael Jordan).

So this may be a return to competence, and Collins is certainly a good coach, but it's also a potential return to the same problems that doomed Skiles. Not that they're both disciplinarians (I'm fine with that), but while Collins the TV analyst seems to have mellowed with age, all I've heard of him is when he gets back in to coaching mode, he falls back into a different persona: overly intense, emotional, and stressed-out. Eventually to a fault.

Those traits of intensity, and slowing the pace, indicates a need to control. Running plays, limiting mistakes. But this roster is young, and any coach should expect mistakes. That'll be the huge test of 'the new' Doug Collins, if he even bothers to pretend that person exists. Will mistakes be expected? Or benched?

I'm afraid of another Skiles trait: an overeliance on trusted veterans at the expense of young players for the uninspiring goal of predictable mediocrity.

Sort of a parallel to what Pax wound up with in this search.

While reports were that Collins was initially contacted after Boylan was hired, that doesn't distinguish himself from what seemed like 85% of the available assistant coaches, those who wanted to coach, and those who maybe thought about coaching once they retired from playing. I may even have accidentally redirected an interview request from Pax to my spam folder. From the outset, Paxson said he had no idea what he was looking for, and after looking...and more or less turned out he indeed did, and still, had no idea. So him and Reinsdorf went with what was comfortable.

Yet I hope that comfort is only limited to Collins as a coach. In many ways I'm 'okay' with the hire for that reason. The intelligence factor has been mentioned, and he has the reputation as a teacher. But there is that other side, and I hope that wasn't glossed over by the Bulls braintrust because they felt Collins' "Chicago ties" would "resonate" with the fanbase. Sadly, with Jeff Hornacek and Tyrone Corbin, as well as nearly every former Bull mentioned as possible additions to the staff (and Pax's insistence on keeping holdovers like Myers and Adams), this begins to look like only 'Chicago guys' may apply.

There's been rumors about the new lead assistant being the eventual successor to Collins, and this hire is preemptively determined to last only a couple seasons before the groomed can take the helm. It'll be interesting to see who may get anointed, but it means Paxson didn't find his basketball soulmate in his weeks-long endless interview queue. Or at least didn't find one he felt worth risking his job to hire. 

I was hoping we'd see some inspiration in the move, someone who could not only get things "back on track" but accelerate it. This just seems like a return to the old 'vibe': a coach with a shelf-life, with perhaps short-term incremental improvement, but no real vision for a championship future. Collectively they'll play hard, say 'accountability' a lot, hope it's enough to succeed, but rag on the players if it doesn't. A culture where coaching determines the talent, not vice versa.

(Seems like it, anyway.)

Getting the top pick will always mask a lot of mistakes elsewhere. So if this coaching hire is one, maybe it won't matter. Either way  the result means the great coaching vision quest by Pax was a failure. This was no grand move, just one that was potentially good enough. Couldn't the same have been accomplished by hiring Rick Carlisle six weeks ago?