Doug Collins has been close to returning to the Chicago Bulls a couple of times.
John Paxson wanted Collins to be an assistant coach on Bill Cartwright's staff, but not everyone was comfortable with that arrangement and it didn't happen.
In 2008, Collins was interested in becoming head coach of the Bulls. Paxson was willing, but chairman Jerry Reinsdorf decided against it, claiming he didn't want to spoil his friendship with Collins. The Bulls hired Vinny Del Negro instead.
Now Collins is finally back in the fold after being hired as a senior adviser Tuesday. The Bulls say he will serve as an expert resource for the coaching staff and front office.
"My hope is the players will sit down and talk to him and pick his brain, the coaches, myself and (general manager) Gar Forman," said Paxson, the Bulls vice president of basketball operations. "It has all the potential to be a really good thing for our organization. … What a great resource to have."
This move began to take shape when Collins met with Jerry and Michael Reinsdorf on Labor Day. Collins began his return to Chicago by stating what he won't be doing with the Bulls.
"Under no circumstances am I going to coach here," Collins said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. "That should not even be a question. I know there's still going to people that go, 'Sure, coach, how many times did this guy retire and come back.' So I get that.
"But I'm not going to coach. I'm not going to give up my life. I'm not going to miss any Northwestern games. I've got a son-in-law that coaches at a high school outside Philadelphia, Archbishop Carroll, I'm going to be there for that."
So what will Collins do?
He talked about being a mentor and provoking thought behind the scenes. He borrowed a quote from the late John Bach in saying he will "be brief and be seated."
What should Collins do in this role?
Well, the Bulls' rebuild will take care of itself for the most part. For the next year or two, the only real task is to pick a great player in the draft. Lottery luck probably will mean more than player evaluation.
Collins has been a young, inexperienced coach and he has been an old-timer. A good place to start would be to help create an environment where current Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg can learn and grow as the team starts over.
Collins should be able to help Hoiberg figure out how to get his message across and how to motivate young players. At the same time, Paxson and Forman can now let Collins coach Hoiberg and stay out of the way.
Maybe Collins can bring a new line of thinking to the Bulls' front office.
Paxson and Forman have made plenty of good decisions over the years, but there has been a tendency for people voicing dissenting opinions to disappear, whether it's Ron Adams or Jimmy Butler. Perhaps Collins can persuade the Bulls to embrace healthy disagreement. Adams certainly hasn't ruined the Golden State Warriors since joining Steve Kerr's staff.
Paxson and Forman struck gold a couple of times in the draft by selecting older players with a good defensive baseline (Butler and Taj Gibson). They've continued that strategy, but the college senior route didn't pay off with Doug McDermott and the jury is out on Denzel Valentine.
Collins says he won't be a decision-maker with the Bulls, but a new, respected opinion could be valuable.
"My mind is very active," Collins said. "I think all the time. I think to get in a room and bounce ideas off each other, the beauty of it is when there's a level of trust, when you're talking about things, you can speak openly and honest about things, knowing the only thing that matters is what's best for the organization.
"I'm going to put my arm around Pax and Gar and Fred and say, 'Let's try to get the excitement and joy back to the Chicago Bulls.' "
Former Bulls general manager Jerry Krause gave Collins his first NBA coaching job in 1986. Collins served as head coach of the Bulls for three seasons, reaching the Eastern Conference finals in 1989, before he was surprisingly let go and replaced by Phil Jackson.
Since then, Collins has logged eight more seasons as an NBA head coach with Detroit, Washington and Philadelphia, in between stints as a broadcaster. He most recently coached the Sixers in 2012-13 and was on the visiting bench when Derrick Rose tore his ACL in Game 1 of the 2012 playoffs.
Collins, 66, is a native of downstate Benton. His son Chris is heading into his fifth season as head coach at Northwestern.
"I will tell you, I'm old, but I'm not old school. I've got a young brain," Collins said. "I will match my wits with anybody in terms of what's going on now and what's happening. So I am woke."
Collins chuckled a bit after his attempt at modern slang, but it seemed clear he was not joking.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls