During a recent night practice at the Hagan Arena on the Saint Joseph's campus, new 76ers coach Doug Collins leaned back in his chair, arms stretched out over the backs of the two adjacent chairs. While the players ran up and down the court in a spirited scrimmage, assistant coaches Quin Snyder and Aaron McKie coached the teams, while the two other assistants, Michael Curry and Brian James, shouted instructions.
All the while, Collins sat back and took it all in. In the nonstop, fast pace Collins lives in his coaching life, it was an odd sight. It also was telling. Though his energy is boundless, Collins would do himself well to take a slight break now and then during a season that will chew up close to 7 months.
It also showed how much Collins trusts his assistants. Curry played for Collins in Detroit. James was an assistant on Collins' staff in Detroit and Washington, while Snyder played his college ball at Duke, where Collins' son Chris also played.
The morning before Collins' first practice with the team, he met with his assistants.
"I sat down with them for about an hour, and they gave me such a peace," Collins said. "They're all such good men and they are all pure in terms of basketball. We get together and it's sort of wall-to-wall talk about basketball, which is what I love to do. I just feel like I have guys who are so wanting to make my life easier. I can't tell you how often they say, 'Just coach, just coach and leave all the other stuff to us.' They're great people, and they've been important to me throughout my life. And for me to do this again, to have those kind of people with me on a daily basis makes it a lot of fun for me."
Soon after his hiring in May, Collins threw his assistants into action as they dispersed all over the country to meet with players and monitor workouts. McKie stayed here in Philadelphia and oversaw workouts by players who came in long before training camp began.
Snyder went to California to meet with Brand, another Duke product, and stayed for a couple of days to talk over the staff's expectations for the 6-9 forward.
"It was good, a real good meeting," Brand recalled. "He has a great basketball mind, and he's hungry. I don't know if that's a word often used about coaches - being hungry. But he's hungry."
They all appear to be hungry, early in training camp. Of course, they must be to come close to matching the insatiable basketball appetite of their head coach.
"That's the sign of a confident coach," general manager Ed Stefanski said. "Doug will let his assistants run things, then maybe tweak something a little bit later. Some coaches have to have their hand in everything. Doug is confident in himself and his assistants that he doesn't have to do that."
When asked who has opened eyes the most in training camp, Collins didn't hesitate.
"Jason Kapono has been good, really good," he said. "If you look at the best year he's ever had in the NBA, he played with the Miami Heat in a very structured system, where there was great team defense [which is what Collins wants from this group]. He's been making shots, he's one of our best communicators out on the floor. He knows where to be all the time."
Last season, Kapono was often a sideline observer for coach Eddie Jordan before finally getting a good amount of playing time at the end of the season. Besides the angst of a 55-loss season, the 7-year veteran had one of his most trying seasons personally.
"He's probably shocked," the affable Kapono joked about his coach's observations. "He probably thought I was so bad as a basketball player that I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or not. Obviously, he wasn't expecting much. I'll take it as a compliment. Thank you, coach Collins.
"I just wanted to come out here. With last year not really getting a chance to play until the end, going through ups and downs as a team and as an individual didn't sit well with me or us as a team. I trained hard throughout the summer, and I'm looking forward to the season. I just want a chance to play and be able to show my talents and skills out on the floor and get wins for us."
Kapono has knocked down just about every three-point attempt he has taken during scrimmages. Last night, he made a nice drive to the basket after a defender jumped out too far in an attempt to stop his jumper.
Last night was the team's lone workout of the day. They'll have two more practices today . . . For the first time in training camp Andre Iguodala went through a "full contact" workout. Collins is trying to save his legs after Iguodala's long summer with Team USA in the World Championships . . . Andres Nocioni (left ankle sprain) and Tony Battie (right knee synovitis) did not participate . . . Lou Williams did a very good job of defending on the ball against Jrue Holiday . . . Rookie Craig Brackins was red-hot from the outside all night . . . Matchup of the night was Iguodala covering rookie Evan Turner, who was running the point for his team. Turner made three shots, including a 20-footer in which Iguodala fouled him on the play . . . Common theme in camp: Holiday is really good. *
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