OAKLAND -- Perched on the bench during games, he’s a model of cool. As Warriors coach Steve Kerr is yelling at referees and Mike Brown is trying to calm Kerr and Ron Adams ignoring them both, third assistant Jarron Collins is the dude projecting cerebral serenity.
Perhaps because at 6-foot-11 and about 270 pounds, he has been conditioned over his 39 years to exercise proper physical restraint in the midst of raging emotions.
Or maybe it’s because Collins has calculated the potential outcomes and, being rational, realizes he has little or no impact on any of them.
Then, too, it could be a matter of Collins being comfortable in his own skin and understanding that someone on the staff has to consider the consequences and be prepared to react in the way the best benefits the team.
There is little doubt, though, much of Collins’ demeanor can be traced back to his days at Harvard-Westlake High School in Los Angeles, where Jarron and his twin brother Jason picked up lessons they carried to Stanford, through their NBA careers and into life beyond their playing days.
The primary influence in that regard is Greg Hilliard, the basketball coach at Harvard-Westlake. A compact man with the taut physique of a drill sergeant and the sideline disposition of a monk, Hilliard retired in 2015 after 40 years in coaching, the last 30 at HW.
“He never got a technical foul,” Collins says.
“I coached 42 years without one,” Hilliard says. “I worked referees a completely different way and, I thought, a way more effective way. They had tough jobs and I figured I wouldn’t give them any more grief for trying to do it than they would give me for trying to do mine.”
That’s not to suggest Hilliard, who will be honored Friday at the Coaching Corps Game Changer Awards ceremony in San Francisco, didn’t carry a loud stick of authority. He was quick to remind his players that he was in charge.
Collins tested him once and that was enough.
In the summer before his senior year at HW, Collins attended a Nike Camp in the Midwest and played well enough that he had an inflated opinion of himself when he returned to Southern California. He figured he could bypass the trivial matters of Coach Hilliard providing direction.
“My head, my ego, was the size of a building,” Collins recalls. “In our first summer tournament, I was on the bench when the other team went on a run. And I was thinking, ‘OK, coach. Let’s stop this and get me back in.’ So I subbed myself back in. I just stood up and went to the scorer’s table and subbed myself in.”
Hilliard didn’t snap. Didn’t shout. Didn’t even shoot an icy glare in the direction of this brassy youngster.
“We were struggling and normally I would sub him,” Hilliard recalls. “But I didn’t right then. So he walked right past me and checked in. Within five seconds of that, I checked him out and sat him down for the rest of the game. I didn’t say anything except, ‘No, we don’t do it that way.’
“Now, he was probably a few seconds ahead of me in what I was about to do anyway. He was often a few seconds ahead of me because he was a very smart player. But you can discipline there without screaming and yelling and showboating or trying to convince the crowd that you’re the boss.”
Twenty-two years later, Jarron still reflects on that insolent teenage moment.
“What I really appreciate about Coach Hilliard is that not only did he humble me, but that he did it in the right way,” he says. “He saw me sub myself in, subsequently called a time out, subbed me back out and I didn’t play the rest of the game.
“I learned. Don’t be ‘that guy.’ Can’t be ‘that guy.’ That was completely disrespectful to my coach, to my teammates, to my school, to my family. And those are the reminders that I now appreciate.”
Hilliard won 752 games over 42 seasons, 616 of them at HW, where he took over the program in 1984. During his time there, the school won 13 league championships, nine CIF Southern Section championships and two state championships, those coming in back-to-back seasons (1996 and ’97) when the Collins twins were juniors and seniors.
“They made me a better coach,” Hilliard says. “And all of a sudden a place that nobody had ever heard off -- it’s a very highly academic and elitist kind of school -- became attractive to kids in South LA. They’d heard about the Collins twins and seen them on TV.”
You might say it was a symbiotic relationship. Hilliard, 68, has his memories. They’re with him each morning, when he wakes up 5 a.m. and proceeds to his daily workout. They’re with him each time he hears from Jarron or Jason.
“A lot of the lessons I learned about sacrificing for the team and dedication and hard work and putting the time in, all those life lessons, those are what have made me who I am today,” Jarron says. “I draw down upon those experiences. It starts with my family and it definitely starts with my coaches, beginning at a young age.”