The team which gave Doug Collins his first coaching job is on the verge of luring Collins back to the bench one more time.
Numerous Chicago media outlets reported Thursday that the Chicago Bulls will soon announce that Collins is leaving his successful television career to be the Bulls' new coach. Multiple sources close to the situation confirmed those reports to ESPN.
Earlier this month, when linked to the Phoenix Suns' opening, Collins emphatically told ESPN.com that he had "no interest" in coaching again.
Yet it appears that Collins' close relationships with Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson and owner Jerry Reinsdorf have led to an abrupt change of heart, enabling Chicago to continue its dramatic recovery from the disappointment of losing out to the New York Knicks in the race to hire Mike D'Antoni with a proven NBA winner. Last week, Chicago won the NBA's draft lottery despite posting the league's ninth-worst record this season.
Paxson insisted in a statement released Thursday afternoon that the sides have not finalized a deal, but it's believed that the team and Collins are merely waiting for the end of the Western Conference finals to make Collins' hiring official.
Doug Collins seems ticketed for the Bulls' sidelines, but John Paxson is the guy who will be in the crosshairs. Story "I have been in contact with Doug Collins in regard to our head coaching position," Paxson said. "Contrary to some reports that are currently out there, we have not reached an agreement. Right now, his commitment is covering the Western Conference finals for TNT. When that series concludes, we will continue our dialogue. In the meantime, I will continue to talk to other candidates and review our options."
Through a TNT spokesman, Collins said Thursday, "I have spoken with Bulls management recently about their head coaching vacancy and will resume conversations after the conclusion of my work for TNT in the Western Conference finals. There is no agreement in place."
Collins last coached in 2001-02 with the Washington Wizards. He has a career record of 332-287 in stints with Washington, Detroit and Chicago, including a 15-23 record in the postseason.
Collins was Michael Jordan's first coach in Chicago but was fired by the Bulls in 1989 despite leading them to the Eastern Conference finals. Collins was replaced by Phil Jackson, who went on to lead Chicago to six NBA titles in a span of nine seasons.
Mr. Fix It
Doug Collins can turn around a team quickly. In each of his three previous stops, the team he has taken over has seen an immediate improvement, with an increase in wins from the previous season of 10 for the Bulls, 18 for the Pistons and 18 for the Wizards.
Collins is widely regarded as a top teacher of the game, which has obvious appeal to the Bulls given the young nature of their roster and the forthcoming arrival of the No. 1 overall pick in the June 26 draft. Yet Collins and the Bulls will inevitably have to answer questions about the 56-year-old coping again with the NBA coaching grind after Collins recently spoke out so strongly against the idea.
"I consider it a compliment when people mention me, but I just love my life now," Collins told ESPN.com on May 7. "The work that has to be done and the headaches you have to put up with today, I'm not willing to pay that price. It's just too tough.
"I get a chance to see my children now and my grandchildren. I've probably given up the competitive side of myself, but it's such a tough ride and tough grind unless you have the [clout] of someone like Phil Jackson or Gregg Popovich or Jerry Sloan."
It was initially assumed that the Suns would have the best chance of luring Collins out of the TV booth, given that he lives in the Phoenix area and since Suns president Steve Kerr is a former TNT colleague. But Collins is an Illinois native who starred at Illinois State, which conceivably made the Bulls' job even more attractive.
Earlier this season, Collins turned down an offer from the Milwaukee Bucks, who also tried in the summer of 2005 to hire him as coach.
The Bulls are coming off a disastrous 33-49 season after many experts had pegged them as a preseason favorite in the Eastern Conference. Scott Skiles was fired on Christmas Eve and interim coach Jim Boylan was dismissed shortly after the season ended.
D'Antoni was the Bulls' top choice to replace Boylan, but Paxson has conducted numerous interviews in the last six weeks. Candidates he is known to have interviewed include ESPN/ABC analyst Mark Jackson, Los Angeles Lakers assistant coaches Brian Shaw and Kurt Rambis, Utah Jazz assistant Tyrone Corbin, Sacramento Kings assistant Chuck Person, Jazz special assistant Jeff Hornacek and former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Dwane Casey, who has a standing offer to join Rick Carlisle's new staff in Dallas if he doesn't land a head coaching job.
Information from ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein was used in this report.