PHILADELPHIA — Amid the uncertainly that surrounds the Philadelphia 76ers, coach Doug Collins has kept some routine.
He’s also maintained his optimism.
Collins concluded a week of meetings and film sessions with his staff on Friday, and more sessions like it are planned, even as the start of the NBA season is in jeopardy because of the lockout.
Collins wants to keep operations running as usual and have the Sixers raring to go whenever a labor deal is reached.
“We should be able to hit the ground running, which is exciting,” he said by phone Friday.
Collins planned this week exactly as he did at this time last year when he started his first season coaching the Sixers. He’s taking a weekend break to travel to Durham, N.C. for a celebration of Duke basketball (his son is an assistant on the men’s team), but then it’s back for more work next week.
“We’re planning our season,” Collins said. “We’re getting together, we watched a lot of tape, watching a lot of things on film that we want to teach. We put together some practice plans. It was really to get together and start planning our training camp.”
When that starts, no one knows for certain. The Sixers would usually open camp the first week of October, but the lockout has thrown a dose of confusion into the league. The two sides return to the bargaining table Tuesday, this time with more players and owners, to try and find a way to end the league’s lockout and save the 2011-12 season.
Collins spent the summer in San Diego, enjoying a relaxing summer as a satisfying reward for an exciting first season in Philadelphia. He left the TNT broadcast booth to take over a team that won only 27 games. He led them from the draft lottery to the playoffs, where they lost a five-game series to the Miami Heat.
Without the stress of prepping for a game, he relived the fun this week over film sessions. His staff broke down the season into 90-minute highlight reels and they took an up-close look at how the Sixers shook off a slow start to playing some of their best basketball in years.
“It was really fun to go back and watch how well our guys were executing and how well they started doing things,” Collins said. “It gives us a great blueprint so that when we get started this year, it’s going to be so much different. I know the guys now. I know the things that were good to us on the floor. I know what we like to do.”
He just can’t personally pass along the rave reviews to his players. Like around the rest of the league, Collins and the rest of his staff and management are banned from communicating with his players.
Collins formed a tight bond with his team a year ago and was never afraid to become emotional around them. Sixers forward Elton Brand said in an interview last month how much he missed receiving the upbeat text messages from Collins.
Collins’ lessons on the value of teamwork made an impact. Led by Brand and Andre Iguodala, a large group of Sixers participated in team workouts last month in Los Angeles. Guard Evan Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, stayed in Philadelphia this summer and was tutored on shooting by Hall of Fame college coach Herb Magee. Other players posted on Twitter their detailed offse ason workout plans.
It’s a nice way to keep updated — but it’s not the same as a personal connection.
At least the Sixers are easy to find.
The new ownership has been in the NBA’s version of the witness protection program. Comcast-Spectacor sold the team to a group led by New York-based leveraged buyout specialist Joshua Harris. The deal is still awaiting approval by the NBA, and that could come later this month.
Harris and other members of the group have been eerily silent since the deal was announced. Interview requests have been declined and there’s no idea how they plan to run the franchise. Collins has yet to meet his new boss, though they’ve talked on the phone.
“I think they want to feel that they own the team before they get front and center,” Collins said. “They’ve been very adamant in the fact that they want to keep a very low profile until they own the team.”
Once the group gets settled, Collins will hire an assistant to replace Quin Snyder, who left for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Collins says he feels great and is recovered from a concussion he sustained on Memorial Day 2010.
He missed two preseason games last year because of symptoms related to the concussion, then had neurological testing and treatment for what was diagnosed as vertigo. He saw the Sixers earn their first victory of the season in the locker room on his back, not the bench because of dizzy spells.
Collins will visit Bryn Mawr Rehabilitation on Monday to raise awareness about the signs and symptoms of concussions.
“I got two treatments for this positional vertigo and the concussion symptoms and it went away,” after the Indiana game, he said. “I had absolutely no problem with it the rest of the year. I feel better than I’ve ever felt.”
All he needs is a team to coach.