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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 08:24 GMT 09:24 UK
Collins leads Jordan tributes
By Andrew McKenzie

Doug Collins confers with Michael Jordan
Collins will have to do without Jordan next season
Washington Wizards coach Doug Collins has paid tribute to retiring basketball legend Michael Jordan.

The 40-year-old Jordan played his final game in the NBA on Wednesday after a 15-year career that has seen him widely regarded as the finest the sport has ever seen.

Collins led the Wizards during Jordan's two-year comeback from retirement and was also Jordan's coach at the Chicago Bulls between 1986-1989.

"He's a basketball genius," Collins told this website.

"The thing I think people don't realise was that when Michael was the best player in the NBA, and arguably the best player of all-time, people looked at his wonderful physical abilities, his mind and competitiveness.

"But what they didn't see was that he was the most fundamentally sound player in the game.

"I was blessed to be with him for three years in Chicago. I've known him as a broadcaster, a coach and a friend so I've seen all sides of him.

"My second year coaching Michael he averaged 35 points a game, he had over 200 steals over 100 blocked shots, he was defensive player of the year and we won 50 games.

"Mentally he can still do the things as a player but physically the magnificent gifts he had with time tend to decline a little bit, but his competitive will sure hasn't.

No-one will have a better grasp of this team and what we need to do better than he will
Doug Collins

"His love of the game doesn't surprise me any more, his pride doesn't surprise me, his competitiveness, his will to win - they have been there throughout his whole career.

"I think that the thing that just amazes me is there were nights when you just think he can't play physically and he finds a way to do it.

"This guy is a winner. I love him and he's been so good to me throughout my life and I want him to end his career with a smile and be proud and feel good about his two years here."

Jordan's career in Chicago ended with him hitting the winning shot as the Bulls celebrated a sixth NBA title in 1998.

His time in Washington has not quite reached such heady heights, with the Wizards failing to make the play-offs in both seasons.

Michael Jordan
Jordan brought down the curtain in Philadelphia
His first season back ended prematurely through injury and the Wizards slipped out of play-off contention, while they have come up just short this season.

But Collins said Jordan's return to the court could prove invaluable for when, as appears likely, he reassumes his management role as president of basketball operations with the Wizards.

"There's nothing like travelling with the team, practising with them, being in the locker room and timeouts and being able to observe people at their best and their worst," Collins added.

"Hopefully when Michael is done here and steps into the other seat then no-one will have a better grasp of this team and what we need to do better than he will.

"And that will be vital for us to keep going in the right direction."

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