Northwestern names Collins its head coach

Mar. 28, 2013 @ 11:29 PM

Chris Collins is going home for a brand new challenge.

Northwestern officially announced Collins as its new men’s basketball head coach late Wednesday night, completing a whirlwind courtship with the former suburban Chicago prep star.

A former Duke player who has been on Mike Krzyzewski’s staff for the last 13 years, the 38-year-old Collins will replace Bill Carmody as the Wildcats head coach.

The deal became official after Collins had dinner with Northwestern president Morton Schapiro Wednesday night.

“I’m so grateful to President Schapiro, Chairman (William) Osborn and Dr. (Jim) Phillips for the opportunity to lead the men’s basketball program at one of the premier universities in the world, to compete in the Big Ten Conference, and to do so in my hometown,” Collins said in a prepared statement. “Northwestern University is a special place that strives for excellence in every regard, and our program will be no different. I can’t possibly thank Coach Krzyzewski and Duke University enough for preparing me for this day.”

Duke’s team traveled via chartered flight to Indianapolis following practice Wednesday. Collins did not accompany the team, but rejoined the Blue Devils late Wednesday after his meeting with Schapiro.

Collins will be at practice today as the Blue Devils prepare for Friday night’s NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal game against Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium. He will remain Duke’s associate head coach until the Blue Devils’ season ends.

Duke wasted no time in announcing that Nate James was being promoted back to assistant coach to replace Collins on the Blue Devils staff. James, a former Duke player, was an assistant coach from 2008 to 2011.

When Jeff Capel joined Duke’s staff in 2011, James became a special assistant coach. In that role, he had limited duties in regards to recruiting and working with players.

But when Collins departs for Northwestern, James will regain his full assistant coaching duties.

"This will be a seamless transition for the Duke basketball program,” Krzyzewski said. “Having served in an assistant coaching role previously, Nate is the perfect choice for this position. He has been a valuable member of our program since his playing days and he has certainly earned this opportunity.”

Earlier Wednesday, during a news conference at Cameron Indoor Stadium, Krzyzewski praised Collins and said the Wildcats would be making a good hire if they picked Collins.

“They’ll get a great one,” Krzyzewski said. “…He’s been with me for over a decade and he’s been terrific. Not good. He’s got a great basketball mind, competitive personality, a team guy, a great guy. But he’s a great basketball guy, too.”

Collins interviewed with Northwestern officials on Monday in Atlanta. The interview went well and his candidacy moved toward fruition.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Chris, his wife, Kim, and their children, Ryan and Kate, home to Chicago and into the Northwestern family,” said Phillips, Northwestern’s athletics director. “He has a tremendous pedigree as a basketball coach and will be an outstanding leader for Chicago’s Big Ten Team, and mentor for our student-athletes. After a thorough and comprehensive search process, there is no doubt he is a perfect fit for this institution and our men’s basketball program.”

Collins, the son of former Illinois State all-American and NBA guard and current Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins, was named “Mr. Basketball’ following his senior season at Glenbrook North High School in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook.

He played four seasons for Duke (1993-97) and joined Duke’s coaching staff as an assistant in 2000. Duke won the 2001 and 2010 national championships during his tenure.

In 2008, Collins was promoted to associate head coach. He has also worked with the U.S. Olympic teams during the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, when the team won two gold medals with Krzyzewski as its head coach.

Duke senior center Mason Plumlee, an all-ACC player and second-team all-American this season, said Wednesday that Collins has had a positive impact on his career.

“He was the first person that recruited me,” Plumlee said. “First of all I think that’s a great, great fit for him. I’m not a coach myself, but knowing Coach Collins he knows that area well. He’s got all the players respect. Just being around him. I mean, after my first practice here, I was like `This guy knows what he’s doing and what he’s talking about.’ He’s had the experienced and been around great coaches all his life. I think he’s going to fit into that mode very well.”