MIAMI — Doug Collins is throwing his name in the mix to be an Olympic coach. But not as the head coach, as an assistant coach.
“I’d be thrilled if they’d let me be an assistant coach,’’ Collins told FOX Sports Florida on Friday night before his Philadelphia 76ers faced the Miami Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers said last August that Collins, who played on the American team that lost a controversial gold-medal game to the Soviet Union in the 1972 Olympics, would be the best choice to lead Team USA in the future.
While Collins was flattered, he believes the head position should go to either Rivers or San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. With Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski stepping aside, USA Basketball will look this summer for a coach to take over for at least the 2014 World Cup in Spain and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“My feeling is the two guys who should be in the mix are Pop and Doc,’’ said Collins, whose 76ers play at Orlando on Sunday. “I think those two guys, what they’ve done. Pop, the years he’s put in, what he’s done and plus he has a military background a lot like Coach K, and what he’s done in San Antonio. And then I think Doc.’’
Collins said “obviously you would be interested’’ if an opportunity ever came to him to be Team USA’s head coach. But he believes Popovich, who has won four championships, and Rivers, who has won one and has two overall NBA Finals appearances, are more deserving.
“Those two guys are the cream of the crop. They’ve won championships,’’ said Collins, who has never coached a team in the Finals.
However, the well-respected Collins would welcome a role as an assistant under either. Assistants under Krzyzewski during the past two Olympics and last two World Cups were current Los Angeles Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni, former Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. But it remains to be seen if any will return.
“I’ve spent so much of my life in the Olympics, (also) as a broadcaster,’’ Collins said. “My son has been a part of it. The Olympics are so important to me.’’
Collins has been an NBC announcer for the past four Games. His son, Chris Collins, was on Krzyzewski’s staff as a scout for each of the past two Olympics, both gold-medal winning efforts.
Collins, though, is best known for the 1972 Olympics, when he hit two free throws to put the Americans up 50-49 with three seconds remaining. But officials ending up giving the Soviets three chances to make a final inbound pass, and the last one went the length of the court for a layup at the buzzer that led to a 51-50 win over Team USA. In protest, the Americans still have not accepted their silver medals.
“Watching last summer and just listening to how he broadcast (the Olympics), you can tell it has a special place for him, and I think it’d be great for him to be involved in any capacity,’’ 76ers center Spencer Hawes said of the possibility of Collins being an Olympic assistant coach.
“I think, especially considering how badly they got screwed when he was involved as a player and the historical implications of that, I think it’d be kind of a full-circle experience for him. I know how much (the Olympics) mean to him.’’
It’s been a tough season for Collins, whose 76ers came in Friday having lost 10 of 11 games to fall to 23-37. But he lit up when talking about the Olympics.