CLEVELAND – When 2-seeded Duke meets 3-seeded Michigan State in Indianapolis tonight, it will be one of the final Sweet 16 games. It will also be a unique moment for Duke associate head coach, Chris Collins.
“He is going to shake Tom Izzo’s hand and then be looking at him eye to eye next year,” Doug Collins said of his son, who has been named the next head coach at Northwestern. “It is going to be different but Chris is ready. He is a classy young kid. I know he is my son, but thank God he takes after his mom.”
Chris, 38, is the oldest of Collins' two children. Northwestern will be his first-ever head coaching position, but he has been well groomed, having played four years for Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski and then joining his staff in 2000, where he will remain until the Blue Devils' NCAA tournament run comes to an end.
“It fits the profile for what he has been looking for in a school,” Collins said of his son’s opportunity. “Northwestern attracts the kind of athlete that Chris has been recruiting at Duke. Chicago is a place he has recruited successfully and he was Mr. Basketball, [where] he and his sister grew up and went to high school, so he has a tremendous amount of friends and support.
“I am very proud. That city is very important to us. Chris played his high school ball there. Actually, Evanston [High School] (where Northwestern is located) was in the same conference with Glenbrook North, so he had a tremendous high school career. He spent 17 tears at Duke, either as a player or an assistant to Coach K. He is ready.”
Doug Collins' current assistant coach, Brian James, coached Chris in high school at Glenbrook North, and in James’ mind, the day for the younger Collins to take over his own program was a long time in the making.
“I think it [was] long overdue,” James said. “Sometimes you want to stay because you have the best assistant coach’s job in the country possible at Duke University – why leave unless you know it is a great opportunity, but he’s been ready for a long time. He was ultra competitive as a player and he is the same way as a coach and his attention to detail is second to none. I think he is more than qualified, not only to be a head coach, but to be a successful and great head coach.”
Northwestern finished second-to-last in the Big Ten standings this season with a league record of 4-14. They were 13-19 overall under Bill Carmody, the former Princeton coach who was let go after 13 seasons at Northwestern.
Northwestern’s football program has grown and enjoyed success under Pat Fitzgerald -- Collins intends to duplicate that on the hardwood.
“Chris and I talked and he said the one thing about there, I am not chasing anyone’s legacy; I am going in there to try and create one,” Doug Collins said. “I think that is pretty neat and I know how committed he is to making that happen. He knows how tough the Big Ten is. He loved the President, he loved the athletic director. He feels like they have some really good players in the program. The big thing right now is that you have to fight to keep the kids in your program.”