Doug Collins Interview - 6/17/2010

What did you learn about Evan today that maybe you didn’t know?

First of all he’s very smart. He’s got a great [knowledge of the] history of the game. He was talking about a couple of all-star games – guys making plays at the end of games. The thing that I love about him is with all that, he’s a great competitor. When you watch him on tape you see the really competitive side of him; you’ve got to be a great competitor to be a great player.

How much of a resource is it for him to have someone like you as a coach if he were to get drafted here? Someone who played here as a high draft pick?

I talked about it yesterday. I said, ‘Evan if you have the good fortune of playing here in Philadelphia, the one thing I know being here is if you’re passionate and competitive, the fans here will love you – they will love you!’ That’s basically the way I played my career here, passionate and competitive. I talked a little bit about my experience playing here and coming in at 9-73 and four years later us playing against Portland in a world championship and how quickly things change. And the history of this city, what these fans – I mean they had people last night coming over to the restaurant with gear for him to sign and to take pictures. I think that sort of blew him away, and I said ‘that’s what this city’s about’. They are so hungry to have a winning team again. I think that’s very exciting for him. Also he’s a guy who’s played with the ball a lot in his career and he was asking me if I’d teach him to play off the ball, and I said, ‘Well that’s what I did. I learned how to play off the ball and make the game easier for yourself’, so he’s a terrific young guy.

When you talk about the responsibility that comes with the second pick and the scrutiny that will come with it, how important is it to you the way that he handles the situation and the maturity and those types of things?

You know, I’m not even concerned about that because I think he’s been in tremendous programs: He played for a very good high school coach Gene Pingatore who coached Isiah Thomas. They’ve had one of the best programs in high school for basketball. He went to Ohio State; Thad Matta did an incredible job for him there. He’s played in the best competitive situations, he understands pressure, and he’s been the best player on his team. That’s one thing I always look for in guys coming into the NBA – did you have the responsibility night in and night out being the best player on your team. So if you didn’t play well your team probably didn’t get a chance to win the game. So you had that kind of pressure every night; in the Big Ten in a tough conference, he was in the NCAA. And the one thing about it is if we were to take him, he’s coming to a team that still has a very young group, a very young core. I said that one thing about being a pro and coming in is locking arms with another hard working, professional player, or two or three, that approach their job every single day to get better and to do all the right things. Just in everything that I’ve heard and watched about this group, is we have young guys who want to play, who want to be in the gym. They want to get better. And when you get in that kind of environment you can only get better.

Talk about moving without the ball, something you did a lot of.

That’s probably an area that he’s going to have to work on. He has been a guy who has created for everybody. He had the ball in his hands, he made plays for everybody. So he’s never really been a guy who’s been the recipient of somebody making a play for him. He’s the kind of guy that if you envision, if we were to take him, if you envision him with a Jrue Holliday and an Andre Iguodala on the perimeter – he’s very good defensively, and more importantly you have three guys that can all make plays. That is so important especially the way the game is played today. If you start getting into a lot of set plays teams get better at defending you because teams are so well scouted, and so well prepared. But if you can get your defense to create and get in the open court and you got guys who can make plays, it so helps everybody else on the floor. Evan has the ability to do that, but he is going to have to learn to play off the ball. But that’s easy to do. If you are a willing learner you can do that. I mean I had the ball in my hands in college and I came in here and Gene Shue taught me to play off the ball and that became my strength. So that will be my job if we do take him, to teach him that.

What do you look for in a shooting guard? Is perimeter shooting a priority in that position?

I always felt shooting is the one area of your game that you can get better at. Some of the things that he is gifted with, with his size, agility, quickness and speed and stuff like that are much tougher areas to improve. But I always said if a young player wants to get in the gym he can get better and he can get better at shooting the ball. Right now he is a very good mid-range shooter, and today he shot the three pretty well. Again, he’s never been the recipient of being off the ball so nobody’s ever created a shot for him or kicked to him where he’s had his feet together. He’s usually battling two guys to get somebody else a shot. We’ll play a lot of baseline action in my offense, a lot of screening and coming off screens. If you don’t have the shot then we’ll work different kinds of pick and rolls – he can do all of those things. His shooting will get better. You look at a guy like Jrue Holiday and everybody came in last year saying, ‘This kid can’t shoot’, and I think he finished shooting 38% from the three-point line. So if you are a willing learner, and we’ve got teachers here, then you are going to get better.

Does his previous back injury concern you at all?

Not at all. All the doctors have cleared him. They said it was the kind of injury that if you wanted to have a back injury it was the kind to have. It was a little bit of a fracture in a vertebrae, it healed up, and every doctor said absolutely no effect on his long-range career at all.

Are you a little weary of throwing a young player in for a lot of minutes?

I’m not. I’ve never been concerned about playing a guy whether he’s young, old, or whatever. I like high energy, competitive guys. If Evan is the guy we end up taking, you start thinking of a Jrue Holliday, who is the youngest player in the NBA, and you talk about Evan – and those are two guys who can be a combination seven or eight years in the back court together. I think that is one of the things that Eddie [Stefanski] and I talked about, is when you have some holes you can’t fill them all at once. You have to get guys who you think have a chance to be good for a long time and little by little address the other needs you have on your team. That is sort of where we are right now. I told you guys when we met at my press conference that last year this was the perfect storm that everything that could go wrong went wrong with this group, and I just think that guys are going to bounce back. I’ve talked to a lot of the guys on the phone, I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from guys are, and what they want to come back and accomplish next year. And I love competition, so from my standpoint at practice if we can be two-deep at every position, where everyday guys are going against each other I think that is how you get better.

Getting back into coaching mode, is it comfortable?

I feel so good. I feel better here, and I was telling my coaches yesterday. You get to a point in your life where little things that used to bother you don’t bother you as much, you focus in on the bigger picture, you delegate. And I’ve got such a great group – my staff over there with Michael Curry, Aaron McKie, Brian James and Quin Snyder. High energy guys that all bring something different. Michael and Aaron both played for me and know what I’m about. They are going to take a lot of responsibility. Brian James is so organized and was my son’s high school coach, and has been an assistant with me over the years, he knows what I want. Quin Snyder has sort of been like a little brother to me over the years. I’ve known him when he was at Duke and I was helping him while he was at Missouri in the D league in stuff. So I feel so good about our staff, and I just feel a great spot in my life. I’m a grandpa now, I’ve got four grandkids. My grandkids are up the road here, a couple of them. I was at Friday's watching Game 6 and the fans were coming up and were just excited. I feel like I’m home. And that’s what I said before at my press conference, that if I were to ever do this again it’d have to be a place that 1. I thought I’d make a difference, and 2. A place that would be extra special to me. And Philadelphia is incredibly extra-special to me.

I talked to Mike Preston yesterday, and the one thing is that there is hope. There is hope here that the franchise is going to get better. I know the fans over the years struggled with, we’ve rode that same old lack over and over again and we have to show them it’s going to be different and that they are going to be proud of their team. Their team is going to be competitive. And we’ve got to win at home. We can’t win 12 games at home. We have to win at home so these fans come to watch this team that our guys want to play here, want to play in front of these fans and want to give them a good night and compete. We want fans to leave saying ‘You know what, I can cheer for that team’. That’s what we have to do this year. We have to give them hope that things are going to change.

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