PHILADELPHIA — TNT analyst Doug Collins, who has been a coach with three NBA franchises, started negotiating with the Philadelphia 76ers to become their coach, according to a person familiar with the talks.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity on Wednesday because the negotiations were supposed to remain confidential.
Team president Ed Stefanski interviewed Collins on May 1, and he emerged as the leading candidate to replace the fired Eddie Jordan. The pool of candidates includes former Dallas coach Avery Johnson and Toronto coach Sam Mitchell.
Collins went 332-287 in coaching stints with Chicago, Detroit and Washington. The 76ers made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 1973 draft, and he played eight seasons with them.
Collins' agent, John Langel, declined comment.
Collins coached a young Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls from 1986-89, and the Detroit Pistons from 1995-98.
He coached Jordan again with the Washington Wizards from 2001-03. His two seasons with the Wizards were his only two full seasons in which he did not lead his team to the playoffs. He was fired shortly after Jordan was denied a return to the front office.
Stefanski and other members of Sixers management also interviewed Phoenix assistant coach Dan Majerle, Houston assistant Elston Turner, Portland assistant Monty Williams and former Detroit Pistons star Bill Laimbeer.
Collins has been with TNT since leaving the Wizards. He was set to call Game 2 of the Western Conference finals between Los Angeles and Phoenix on Wednesday night.
The negotiations were first reported by the Philadelphia Daily News.
This is shaping up as the most pivotal offseason for the Sixers since they selected Allen Iverson with the No. 1 overall draft pick in 1996. The Sixers moved up from the sixth spot to grab the No. 2 pick in Tuesday's draft lottery.
The right coach-draft pick combination could immediately lift them from their 27-55 doldrums in Eddie Jordan's lone season.
"I have said this over and over that our talent was better than our record," Stefanski said at the lottery. "We have to show that and prove that on the court. I think that our young players did not have the year or the progression that we expected. They are going to have to show it. So we have a lot of work to do this summer. We have to show the fans that this is a big start to get the No. 2 pick in the draft."
The Sixers still owe Eddie Jordan $6 million over the next two seasons — but they have had multiple coaches on the payroll in previous seasons. While money could be a factor, team chairman Ed Snider has rarely let cost stand in the way.
Collins was a serious candidate to return to coach the Bulls in 2008. Concerned that a second tenure as the Bulls' coach would spoil their friendship, Collins told chairman Jerry Reinsdorf to look elsewhere in June 2008.
He was a four-time All-Star with the Sixers, and he averaged 17.9 points in a career marred by injuries. A knee injury forced him to retire in 1981, two years before the 76ers beat the Lakers for the 1983 NBA title.
Collins received the Curt Gowdy Media Award at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in September for his work as a broadcaster.