Duke Associate Head Coach Chris Collins has verbally agreed to take over as Head Coach of the Northwestern Wildcats, the first ever head coaching gig for the longtime Duke assistant. The one thing Collins can count on during the early stages of his new job: a plethora of challenges.
Anyone with a brain could see Collins was destined to become a head coach sooner rather than later, and Northwestern is a very intriguing landing spot for him, despite the fact that they’ve never been to an NCAA Tournament.
Collins grew up Northbrook, Illinois, a North Shore suburb of Chicago, where he excelled in basketball, being named Illinois Mr. Basketball and landing a spot on the McDonald’s All-American team. Considering this, it is probably safe to assume he’ll head into the job with the fans on his side.
The rebuilding project won’t be as simple as Collins strolling in, installing his philosophy and giving a few inspirational speeches. The Wildcats play in The Big-10, arguably the best conference in college basketball, and one that continues to get stronger. While the state of Illinois has consistent talent coming out of it, Northwestern has to battle just about every Big-10 school plus a few other elite programs to land those talented recruits. With a new, inexperienced coach and a tourney drought that is older than your grandparents, Northwestern isn’t exactly the most appealing of options at the moment.
Most frustrating of all, Collins isn’t exactly inheriting a team that is oozing with talent. The Wildcats went 13-19 this past season, a result of one of the most miserable offenses in the entire nation and a lack of an inside presence. They only managed to win four games in their entire Big-10 slate, losing eleven of their final twelve games. To make matters worse, the father of Northwestern’s top recruit Jaren Sina said Sina will likely de-commit from the program with the changing of head coaches.
Basically, Collins has his work cut out for him. And, while he was a great associate head coach, it is anyone’s guess as to how he’ll perform as a head coach. He could walk in, turn out to be the next Coach K, and immediately turn Northwestern into a solid program. He could walk in and see results similar to that of Johnny Dawkins, who has struggled to get his Stanford team to turn a corner during his time as head coach. We don’t know.
Anyway, best of luck to Collins. He was a heck of a coach during his time at Duke, and we all knew this day was coming. This isn’t quite goodbye, as he will stay on the staff for the remainder of the tournament, but, at the most, we are only a week-and-a-half or so away from the end of Collins’ (current) stay at Duke.