With vacancy comes opportunity for NU

What will Chris Collins value in replacing Tavaras Hardy?

Ryan Marks tried recruiting here before. As head coach of Texas-Pan American, the Chicago native made strides to establish city ties. In August 2011, he hired then-Crane High School coach Tim Anderson to join his assistant staff at UTPA.

This offseason, Marks was fired despite leading the Broncs to a 16-16 record. The UTPA program–which looked lost when he arrived–quickly improved. It wasn't enough, though, and both Marks and Anderson left the program.

No one doubts his passion for Northwestern basketball, which led to him frequently scheduling games at Welsh-Ryan Arena. As well, he's an energetic recruiter, and someone generally viewed to have strong local connections.

Tavaras Hardy now leaves a critical vacancy in Chicago ties—which Marks has plenty of. Could this help him gain footing with Chicago programs, including the heavily-recruited 2014 Meanstreets AAU team that includes Paul White and Tyler Ulis? Perhaps.

This is not to say that Marks is guaranteed to be considered; it's rather to expose the difficult decision Collins faces in rounding out his assistant staff.

They were just gaining momentum, and Brian James hasn't even been officially announced yet. Now, with all of the work in front of him, Collins will have to decide what he values most. Is it Chicago connections? Is it a Duke friend? This was an ill-timed move in the sense that Collins faces a brand new challenge.

The earlier assistant search lacked any form of drama. Collins chose to retain Hardy. He hired his former high school coach in James–a cute story that's lost all momentum.

Then, he valued the broad-based recruiting ties that journeyman Patrick Baldwin had established. It all made sense, and with recruiting now front and center, they need someone else who can excel in that area.

From what I know, the only other serious candidate during that initial assistant search was Jon Scheyer. Instead, he went to Duke, and now it's nearly impossible to tell where Collins will look. Marks could be an appealing option, or Collins might find someone that better suits his style.

There's also Rick Brunson, another interesting name in terms of connections. With NBA stops in Charlotte and Chicago, that would provide more professional appeal on the trail.

As an additional sweetener, his son, Jalen, has become one of the top class of 2015 guards with consistently strong play at Stevenson HS. If Rick were hired, it would certainly help NU's recruitment of Jalen—something that should begin shortly.

But it's still a wide-open field. Others have considered Nate Pomeday another candidate, though it remains to be seen whether working at a struggling Oregon State program would taint his candidacy.

More important than Hardy leaving is how the team recovers. It's the first example of adversity under Collins, and this new-look staff can still succeed on the trail. A solid addition–somehow who could replace the local connections in some way–would be extremely beneficial.

There's Marks. There's Brunson. There are likely others would fit in well. What matters is Collins finding the right piece at the wrong time, and we'll be left to analyze what that entails.

Purple Wildcats Top Stories