Collins recalls how MJ saved his debut

Doug Collins knew Michael Jordan was a special player. All it took was one game into Collins' NBA coaching career for Jordan to prove it.

Collins, who coached Jordan and the Bulls for three seasons (1986-89), was sweating out his first game with the Bulls, a contest at Madison Square Garden against Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks.

"About two minutes to go in the game, the game was tied," Collins said Wednesday during the "Lunch With a Legend" special on ESPN 1000's "Carmen & Jurko Show."

"We came over to the bench, I'm soaking wet with sweat. I've chewed my gum, I have a headache, I have powder on my mouth from where the gum was disintegrated and Michael just hands me a glass of water and says 'Take a sip, coach, I'm not going to let you lose your first game.' He scored the last 10 points, ended up with 50 and we won. And all I asked him to do (next time) was to tell me before the game so I can enjoy it."

Those three years with the Bulls were not the only time he would coach Jordan. Over a decade later they were reunited with the Washington Wizards and Jordan was still working his magic.

"I saw him when he was 41 years old come off an eight-point game in Indiana where I did not play him in the third quarter and it broke a string of like 160-games of double figures for him," said Collins, who still remains close to Jordan. "He came out the next game against the Nets, who at that point in time had been to two NBA Finals, and with two minutes to go in the game he asked me to take him out after he had scored 51 points."

The Collins family probably could tell Jordan stories all day. Collins' son Chris Collins, who has just taken over as the Northwestern men's basketball coach, remembered the first time he was able to work as the Bulls' ball boy at the tender age of 13.

"I'm kind of staring at him like 'Wow, it's Michael Jordan,'" Chris Collins said. "All of a sudden he takes, out of his bag, this Nike box, an Air Jordan box and he just throws it at me. He didn't say anything, he just threw them at me. And I open it up and it's a new pair of Air Jordans. I'm like ‘Man, this is awesome.' I took them and started to put them into my bag and he said ‘What are you doing?' I said 'Aren't you giving me these shoes?' ‘No, you're supposed to lace them up for me to play tonight.' "

If there is person who has embraced basketball more than Jordan, Doug Collins has yet to meet them.

"He devoured practice," Doug Collins said. "That's the one thing about him. He would come into the gym and there was nobody who loved the game more than him. And every day was a day to get better. And his respect for his coaches, Dean Smith at North Carolina, the respect he showed for me was off the charts."