Early in training camp, Sixers coach Doug Collins and his assistants loaded into an SUV after practice and headed to an Eagles practice as a guest of coach Andy Reid. Collins not only came away from that practice with respect for the Eagles' coaching staff, but also with a new friendship - with Reid.
Collins talked of Reid's professionalism, attention to detail and focus. So when the Eagles fired the 14-year head coach, Collins felt the pain that Reid no doubt absorbed.
Since Reid's hiring by the Kansas City Chiefs, Collins has been sporting a Chiefs hat. It's a show of support for his new friend. But Collins is still an Eagles fan, also, and will support their new coach.
"I wish him (Kelly) the best of luck," Collins said. "I think you people know how I feel about this city and all the other sports teams. I go back to the ‘70s where it was a time when the Eagles and the Sixers and the Phillies and everybody knew each other and you hung out and you really supported each other and stuff so you really got a fabric and feel for those teams and root for them. I’ve been a huge Eagles fan, Ron Jaworski was my next door neighbor. I’ve had some great friends from that team and I got to know Andy a little bit. It’s a tough job. Every job in pro sports is tough.
"I’m sure he’ll do great. He brings an exciting system here to Philadelphia. What I hope that what he’ll grow to love, that I have through the years, is the passion of the city and how badly the fans want to win. And so as I sit here from my standpoint loving this city and this organization like I do makes it extra painful for me when I don’t get the job done. No one wants to do the job in a more professional or better way than me with dignity and class. When you’re not winning and things are in a tough spot it makes it doubly hard when you have a 40-year history. That’s one thing that’s hard for me. Even when I go in to get my Starbucks now, when I see people it’s hard for me because I came here to bring winning and we did that the first two years and we’re not doing that right now. That hurts me a lot."
While Collins and Reid don't share a long history, they have that coaching bond that forms a special closeness.
"It’s not we spent a lot of time together but I went to his practice and I got a chance to spend an afternoon with him. We became friends, via text messaging and I think we talked on the phone a couple of times. I knew what he was going through professionally and how hard it was. And then what he ended up going through personally.
"When people see this Kansas City hat that I wear now they ask ‘Are you a Chiefs fan or an Andy Reid fan?’ I go back a long time with the Kansas City Chiefs. Jaws played there late in his career. Carl Peterson was a next door neighbor of mine and he was president of the organization. Herm Edwards was a good friend of mine. So that’s my AFC team. The Eagles are my NFC team. But also, too, that hat represents to me the commitment Andy Reid made to the city of Philadelphia for 14 years. Unless you win a Super Bowl, as a coach, it usually ends ugly, it never ends pretty. It’s just the nature of this business, only one team is left standing. You listen to all the coaches this week after losing and there’s only one thing that really matters at the end of the day and that’s winning a championship. As a coach you understand that. I admire how the man every day, went to work with the personal and professional pressure he was under and the way he did his job with class. So I wear that hat I’m wearing it in honor of him. Because being a coach I know what it feels like. When you lose, people equate you to being a bad person. And that’s what gets lost, and that’s the one thing I don’t like."