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76ers’ Collins downplays talk of becoming Olympic basketball coach

By Marc Narducci, The Philadelphia Inquirer –

LEXINGTON, Ky. — First and foremost it must be stated that 76ers coach Doug Collins is not campaigning to be the next U.S Olympic basketball coach.

It’s not his style, and in fact it’s a difficult situation Collins finds himself in. While he is an acknowledged candidate, he is also friends with the main contenders who have been mentioned to replace Mike Krzyzewski as coach.

The longtime coach at Duke, Krzyzewski has guided the last two U.S. gold medal Olympic teams, but he has said he will not return.

So Collins, one of the stars of the 1972 U.S. Olympic team that lost the controversial gold-medal game to the Soviet Union, and a longtime Olympic basketball analyst, has been mentioned as a prime candidate to replace Krzyzewski. Among the others who have gained mention are Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

Collins doesn’t seek the subject, but when asked during this weekend’s reunion of the ‘72 team about whether he would like to be the Olympic coach, he showed typical candor while also professing a desire to stay with the Sixers long-term.

“It’s a tremendous honor that somebody would even throw my name out there,” Collins said. “It’s four years down the road and I understand in this business you hope you are an active coach at the time.”

Which means obviously with the Sixers.

“I am hoping that I am still active and I would like to coach four or five years in Philadelphia,” he said.

So much for the assumption that Collins was taking things in Philadelphia on a yearly basis.

“I feel good about our team and I love my staff, what we are doing and where we are headed,” Collins continued. “The ownership, Josh (Harris), has been so good to me, so I feel really good about that.”

Collins said he has deep respect for Jerry Colangelo, the chairman of USA Basketball’s board of directors and the person who has been given much credit for reviving the U.S. Olympic team after the bronze-medal finish in 2004.

“Jerry Colangelo is a great leader, and see what he did with Coach K, putting him together, being the guy,” Collins said. “Obviously if they would ask me to do it I would be thrilled to do it, but there are a lot of great candidates.”

Just for a moment, Collins talked about what it would be like to be the next Olympic coach.

“I guess it would be sort of fitting, getting to end my Olympic experience where I started in ‘72,” he said. “And it has been amazing that I have been able to broadcast four Olympics.”

The reunion weekend for the ‘72 team ended on Saturday with a banquet at the Marriot in Lexington. This was the first time since the Olympics that all 12 players have been together.

Not surprisingly, many at this event heartily endorse Collins as the next Olympic coach, especially his former Olympic teammates.

“That would be great for him and he is very close to the Olympic program,” said Jim Brewer, a former Olympian, NBA player, and NBA assistant coach. “He would make a great coach.”

While the Olympics are the main topic this weekend, Collins said he was excited with all the changes the Sixers have made and was looking forward to seeing how this new-look team jells with the additions of Andrew Bynum, Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright, Nick Young, Kwame Brown, Royal Ivey, and rookie Arnett Moultrie.

“I can’t wait to get working with this group,” he said.

Collins has said this has been an emotional weekend, and he has thoroughly enjoyed meeting with his former Olympic teammates.

“Just to be with everybody has been so special,” Collins said. “We are 60 years old now and all 12 of us are living and healthy, and that is the important thing.”

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