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Basketball Tue Mar 26 2013

Northwestern Basketball Coaching Search an Easy Call

phpDGiOq0AM.jpgMajor college basketball coaching searches often reveal a significant perception gap between fans and coaches in the industry. Fans think: Who wouldn't want to come coach my team to a national championship? Coaches think: Why should I quit my job and move my family to pick up the pieces of a broken program?

When the University of Illinois fired Bruce Weber last year, all eyes turned to the game's rising sideline stars, Virginia Commonwealth's Shaka Smart and Butler's Brad Stevens. The thought being that, duh, who would turn down Illinois? A B1G basketball school in a state loaded with talent. Both declined and Illinois found itself a great consolation prize in John Groce.

But the media narrative dogged Illinois: Turns out coaches don't think much of that job. For Northwestern, a high-major program that has somehow never even played in the NCAA tournament, things will likely play out much better. Firing Bill Carmody was a not-that-difficult decision. He was given thirteen seasons to take the Northwestern program to the next level, and while there was plenty of progress, he didn't get the job done. To make matters easier on Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips, the program's coach-in-waiting has been known for some time: Northbrook native and Duke associate head coach Chris Collins.

Collins has already interviewed (it went well!) for the job and could be introduced as head coach before the NCAA Final Four in early April. While there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Collins -- he has never been a head coach, his recruiting ability and connections in the actual city of Chicago aren't proven, and the Duke coaching tree is not a fine specimen -- there's no reason to believe anyone else can take the program to new heights. Northwestern is not an easy job. The Wildcats play in the best conference in America, their facilities are old, and they have never been able to recruit the Chicago Public League.

But a new staff can bring a new culture. If Collins becomes the NU head coach, surrounds himself with the right people, makes the right calls, and forges solid relationships with Tyrone Slaughter, Nick Irvin, and the top players on the AAU scene, he can take Northwestern to the desired level.

Photo by MCT

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