Chicago Basketball Needs Chris Collins

Posted by Chris Hatfield on October 27th, 2017

Chris Collins probably has traces of Lake Michigan running through his blood. I mean, it wouldn’t be suprising. After all, the Northwestern head coach, once a Bulls ballboy, is about as Chicago as it gets. He’s also one of college basketball’s hottest names. In my view, the Wildcats and he are a heavenly pair. It just feels like it needs to be this way. “We are working hard every day to make this a program Chicago can be proud of,” Collins told the Northwestern fan base in a promo that aired a few days after he was hired.

Chris Collins and Chicago Wear Each Other Very Well (USA Today Images)

The city must protect him. He must protect his commitment. The fate of the known universe depends on it. Maybe that’s a bit excessive, but man, it’s quite important. It was more apparent than ever last season. Collins delivered Evanston what it hadn’t had in 78 years, not even once — an NCAA Tournament appearance. He then took it a step further. He actually won a game by defeating Vanderbilt in the First Round. After that, his Wildcats came within a few plays of defeating eventual national runner-up, Gonzaga.

Basketball in Chicago means something. It has to. The city has a rich, vibrant hoops culture that produces one star after another. The problem for America’s best city for basketball talent is obvious. All the players leave the area for blue-bloods like Kansas, Duke and Kentucky (Collins himself, a prep All-American at Glenbrook North High School, did exactly that by attending Duke in 1992). For a few decades now, it’s been a wasteland of NCAA basketball success. It desperately needs to be important again. Enter Chicago’s college hoops savant, who already has suitors looking to lure him away again. It started last season. When Indiana let Tom Crean go, there where many boosters of that program who mentioned Collins as a viable candidate. Louisville is currently taking a peek. The Cardinals will be looking to fill the void left by embattled former head coach Rick Pitino at season’s end. It’s difficult to discern rumors from substance at this point, but it’s still noteworthy. The good news is that Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips isn’t a stranger to fighting off bigger programs. It was widely reported in 2011 that Michigan had offered Northwestern football coach (and fellow native Chicagoan) Pat Fitzgerald its head coaching position. Fitzgerald spurned the Wolverines, opting to sign a contract extension with Northwestern that remains in effect today. Could Phillips do the same in basketball if needed?

Collins’ sure says all of the right things about his employer. He appears to love it. He made a loud statement on his very first day on the job with one sentence: “I am going to blaze my own path, and this is the right place for me to do it.” Since then, his actions have followed up his words, signing two multi-year contract extensions including a contract that would sign him through the 2025 season, according to Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago-Tribune. If there is a scenario that would ultimately lure him away from Evanston, it’s the most logical one. Believe it or not, Mike Krzyzewski won’t be at Duke forever and many believe Collins will be on the short list when Coach K retires. Collins played four seasons for the Blue Devils before spending 2000-13 on the bench in Durham. Could a return to the ACC be in order when the time calls? There’s no scenario where Collins turns down the Duke opening, but maybe that call never arrives. For Chicago’s sake, let’s hope so. The city needs it, and college basketball does too.

Share this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *