I’ve seen enough of Mike Collins.
With his best player suffering yet another emotional meltdown, Collins benched him — the results of the game were terrible.
“Coach, you have to get him back,” pleaded Collins’ assistant. “We’re dying.”
“No,” Collins replied. “This has a greater purpose.”
After years away from a youth basketball game in Las Vegas, Spurs center Zach Collins is grateful for his father’s tough, loving approach to coaching him.
“He never got angry when I played poorly or didn’t try hard enough,” Zach said. “It was always about having the right attitude.”
Halfway through what was to become his best season as a professional after surviving a string of injuries over the past few years, the young Collins reflects on the role his father played in helping him learn to keep his emotions in check. increase.
“He helped me in so many ways,” said Zak, 25. Sometimes he would just sit and ask me why I was acting the way I was. ”
As a young player, Zack was prone to bouts of temper and self-pity, which destroyed his concentration and sometimes led to inciting fights with his opponents.
“I cried and pissed on the court and made a few mistakes, so I was completely kicked out of the game,” he said.
The tantrums stemmed from being “very hard” on myself. When he made a mistake or became frustrated for fear of not being “competitive,” he would go into a funk or act out.
Zach Collins has come a long way in managing his emotions since his days growing up in Las Vegas.
It was all too familiar for Mike, who believes his son inherited his temper.
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Mike, 53, said, “Whenever things didn’t go my way while playing, I had no choice but to go mad and burn the town down.”
At 6 feet 8 inches tall, Mike injured his ankle as a freshman after playing basketball in New Mexico, ending his career. With the support of his wife Heather, Mike began coaching Zach when he was four years old, and started coaching Zach at the Bishop of Las Vegas. I continued to coach.
Determined to help his son deal with his anger issues, Mike created strict rules for Zach to follow when he was 9 years old.
“We don’t talk about basketball in the car,” Mike said to his son. “We don’t talk about it after the game or before the game. When it’s over, it’s over.”
Then there were the occasional benches.
“Elementary, middle school was really bad,” Zak said of his behavior. “After high school, it got a lot better. But early in my life, it wasn’t great.”
Whatever measures Mike took, Zack always knew his father had the highest interest in his heart.
So is his mother.
“They always believed in me,” Zak said. “Her mother wasn’t talked about much because my father was actually coaching me, but she was very loving and had no doubts that I would continue playing basketball and go to the NBA. .”
Mike sees the softer side of Heather’s son. Mike said it was part of Zach’s personality that led him to donate “thousands of dollars” without fanfare to help others.
Spurs’ Zach Collins says he always handled situations poorly as a young player, but that all changed thanks to his father.
“Definitely he has a mother’s heart,” said Mike. “He has my brains when it comes to processing, but his mom’s heart is at heart.”
Mike’s work in helping Zach control his emotions wasn’t the only way Zach helped his son on the road to the NBA. He also preached perseverance in the face of adversity. This was when Bishop came off the bench as Gorman’s underclassman, during his one season with Gonzaga, and during his NCAA run for the Bulldogs as his fifth-grade senior. It’s what Zach relies on when playing behind skis. title game.
“It was probably his toughest time in basketball,” Mike said of Zack’s stint with Bishop Gorman, a national powerhouse who has won more than 20 state basketball titles. And I had to wait until fourth grade, so I had to sit and sit behind someone who was probably playing in front.”
His father’s guidance also helped Zach overcome an injury he sustained in Portland in 2017.
“Keep your head up and keep moving forward,” Mike told Zak.
He also highlighted another thing that helped Zach gain perspective.
“I spoke to him and his sister because my daughter was also very good at basketball. It doesn’t make any sense,” Mike said. He said. “I wanted him to understand that basketball can’t define you. Being a good guy is the ultimate goal.
To Mike’s delight, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has reinforced those same values in Zach.
“What people don’t know is that Zach is going back to his roots in terms of coaching style, because I’m very much like pop-in and I don’t mess around much,” Mike said. rice field. “I just want to let you know that it’s time to put on your helmet and go to work. It could be a lot worse than playing basketball for a living.
“That’s what Pops is about. To do the best you can. And in the life of every athlete, there are bad times and tough nights. Keep your head straight, keep your shovel moving and you’ll be fine.” .”
Zach’s patience paid off this season. He appeared in Sunday’s game against Sacramento, averaging 9.4 points per game and shooting percentage of 53.9%, both career highs. He is also averaging 5.8 rebounds and a career-high 2.5 assists in 32 games, his best since his 77 games with Portland in 2018-19.
“After a few years of injury, he’s starting to feel pretty confident in his body, he’s starting to get his rhythm back, and he’s shooting a few 3s along with post-ups,” Popovich said. “He’s on the right track and doing a good job.”
Zach is emotionally mature, but he still delivers an edgy performance.
“He’s kind of playing an awkward game,” said the coach. “Not many people play that way, so I enjoy it. They’re really nice guys. But Zack makes us feel a little uncomfortable. You need it.”
After retiring from a 30-year career that included supervising sports and recreation in the City of Las Vegas, Mike spent more time watching his son play. He and Heather were in the stands at the AT&T Center in late November when Zach was whistled for a suspected Fragrant 2 foul against his Los Angeles Lakers’ Russell Westbrook.
As a sign of his growth, Zach didn’t react after Westbrook reacted.
“He’s come a really long way,” said Mike. “He put himself in the best possible position mentally to be successful. is equally difficult to deal with and requires a degree of moderation on both sides.”
Thanks to his father’s efforts, Zach now understands it.
Twitter: Tom Orsborn
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