Congratulations, Coach!

24 Mar

With Phillies fans in a state of limbo, still waiting to hear the extent of Chase Utley‘s injury, wondering how soon Ryan Howard will return, and speculating on whether Freddi Galvis will ever be able to hit a major league curve ball, I thought today would be the perfect time to pay tribute to one of my sports heroes, someone I always manage to sneak into my baseball blog at least a couple of times a year, Doug Collins.  And after watching him notch his 400th victory last night, today seemed like the perfect time.

Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins is one of the good guys in sports.  From player to coach to analyst and now back to coach again, Collins has always represented class, dignity and style in a sport not always known for those attributes.  So it was a real treat to watch him get his 400th career victory last night,  and leave the court with a grandson in each arm.  And this wasn’t just any victory.  This was a game his team badly needed, a game against perennial rivals the Boston Celtics, a game that the recently slumping Sixers had to win to retain sole possession of first place.

And win it they did.  But the real winners last night and every night since Doug Collins returned to our city are all of us.  Collins said his goal when he decided to coach again,  a move that surprised many, was to make the 76ers relevant again.  In the sports-crazed town of Philadelphia, where  the other major sports teams  routinely sell out almost every night, the 76ers had become a distant also-ran.  Nobody talked basketball, nobody wore Sixers jerseys and almost nobody went to the Wells Fargo Center to cheer them on.

But Doug Collins has changed all of that.  In his first season, after a depressing 3-13 start, the team started winning with a style of play that reflected the  passion and intensity of their coach.  Although they lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the play-offs last year, they developed a winning attitude that has carried over to this season where they are holding down first pace in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference, a feat that would have seemed unthinkable just two years ago.

And it’s not just during the game that Collins shines; as I’ve mentioned before, miss the Doug Collins post-game press conference at your own peril.   The combination of Doug’s knowledge of and passion for the game is contagious.  In fact, I must confess that I sometimes DVR the post game show just to see my man Doug in action at the podium.  With his thoughtful and detailed answers I always learn something new about the game and usually get a laugh or two along the way.

Or maybe a tear, as I did last night.  After being congratulated by team owners, including Will Smith, on winning his 400th game and answering questions from the press, Doug still had one more story left to tell. It was about one of those young grandsons Collins had carried off the court earlier.

“My grandson got up from his nap today, and he was in the bathroom,” Collins said during the post-game press conference, choking back tears, “and (Collins’ daughter) heard him in there praying that Pop-Pop could get his 400th win tonight.”

And with that, Doug Collins, coach to some, Pop-Pop to a few and inspiration to many more, left the podium last night wiping the tears from his eyes.  But lucky for us, he’ll be back next game, passionately cheering his Sixers on, treating the game and his players with honor and respect, truly embodying the slogan of this team he loves.

“Passionate.  Intense.  Proud.”

Congratulations, Coach.  Here’s to 400 more!

2 Responses to “Congratulations, Coach!”

  1. Shirley March 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    Susan, that was beautiful. Thanks again for helping keep me in the sports loop….your blog scores high with me!!!!!

    • girlsbestphriend March 24, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

      Thanks, Shirley. I’m so glad you read and enjoy the blog. Your comments are an added bonus!

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