Northwestern has identified its “basketball Fitz” and could announce the hiring of Duke associate head coach Chris Collins as early as Wednesday.
Sources told the Chicago Tribune that Collins met Monday with NU officials, and the interview went well enough that the two sides worked Tuesday to finalize a deal.
Last year, Illinois delayed the hiring of John Groce for several days before the sides settled on 5 years with a $1.4 million average salary.
NU officials are motivated to get the deal done quickly and announce it before Duke’s Sweet 16 game Friday night against Michigan State.
Missouri-Kansas City did that last week when it announced the hiring of Louisville assistant Kareem Richardson. Like Richardson, Collins will stay with his team throughout the NCAA tournament before he would come to Evanston for a pomp-and-circumstance announcement.
The reasons to get it done ASAP:
Media buzz and extra exposure for NU basketball, especially if the CBS broadcast team mentions it during the Duke game.
Collins is drawing interest from Minnesota, according to a source, and other schools could target him.
Before top-100 recruit Jaren Sina decides whether to stick to his NU commitment (rather than picking perhaps Seton Hall or Alabama), he will need time to develop a relationship with the new coach before the April 17 NCAA signing period.
Drew Crawford also faces a tough decision – stay in Evanston or transfer as a graduate student to a team with Final Four hopes.
The sooner Collins can get to work at a program that is 0-for-75 in making the NCAA tournament, the better for Northwestern.
NU assistant coaches are in limbo, and an industry source said that Tavaras Hardy has been offered top-notch assistant jobs both inside and outside the Big Ten. Hardy is tight with Crawford and JerShon Cobb, among others, and assistant Fred Hill is NU’s strongest link to Sina.
NU officials also have conducted four other interviews, according to sources. It is believed they met with Bucknell’s Dave Paulsen, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew, La Salle’s John Giannini and perhaps Lehigh’s Brett Reed.
Sources said that among the plusses on Collins’ side are that he will not insist the school tear down or renovate Welsh-Ryan Arena, at least not immediately. Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium is hardly a palace.
And given that he has recruited academic achievers, Collins will not push NU’s provost to make “exceptions.”
FYI: Son of former NBA All-Star and current 76ers head coach Doug Collins. … Former Mr. Basketball in Illinois (1992). … Graduated from Duke in 1996. … Has been assistant coach for two national champion teams at Duke (2001, 2010).