July 4 Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Frank Fitzpatrick”Outside the University of Central Florida Arena, where Doug Collins was conducting his first practice as 76ers coach Friday, rain fell on a bronze statue of the college’s mascot, an armored knight astride a galloping steed.
The sculpture on Gemini Boulevard seemed an apt symbol for the task confronting Collins, the perpetually boy-faced whirlwind who is returning to Philadelphia and the troubled team that made him its first overall pick in 1973.
After several conversations with owner Ed Snider, Collins, 58, knows that his quest is to rescue this distressed franchise, to arm himself with all his natural optimism and joust with the twin dragons that long have terrorized the 76ers: apathy and losing.
It’s too early, of course, to gauge whether that’s a fair fight. But if nothing else, the considerable challenge should provide Collins with an outlet for all the bubbling passion that seven years of broadcasting, daily workouts, and family visits couldn’t unleash.
“I had some outlets,” Collins said Friday during an interview that followed practice with the Sixers’ Orlando Pro Summer League team, “but I had some energy that was pent up. There’s no question about that.”
His energy, not to mention his patience, figures to be tested as he tries to transform a team that finished 28 games below .500 in 2009-10 and, at times, seemed close to slipping off Philadelphia’s sports radar.”