Chris Collins was anxious for his first head-coaching job. Athletic director Jim Phillips needed a splashy hire to reenergize the Northwestern fan base. On Wednesday night — after the quick process — they made it official.
Collins, the Duke associate head coach, will leave Durham after the team's NCAA Tournament run. He arrives in Evanston to a program desperate for its first March Madness appearance, boasting all the requisite tools to make that happen.
The former Glenbrook North HS standout returns to his local roots. In the past, he excelled in recruiting Chicagoland players, including former five-star prospect and eventual national champion Jon Scheyer. Phillips, who insisted on the importance of broad recruiting ties, found someone who could also keep talented players close to home.
By making his first-choice hire, Phillips watched his solid reputation continue to grow. Rather than dealing with an extended search, he quickly found his ideal replacement for Bill Carmody. Though several coaches were rumored to be in contention – including Dave Paulsen and Al Skinner – Collins stood as the clear frontrunner.
The only major concern with Collins lies in his lack of previous head-coaching experience. NU upholds strong academic requirements for recruits and competes in perhaps the best conference in college basketball. The obstacles did not deter Collins, who expressed interest in past head-coaching opportunities and finally has that chance.
Collins will face immediate pressure. The team could return its promising core, including fifth-year senior Drew Crawford. And he can flex his recruiting muscles by retaining three-star guard Jaren Sina, who opened up his recruitment after the Carmody firing.
But right now, in Evanston, there's cause for celebration. Welcome Chris Collins, the man who could put the tournament drought to bed.