After conducting a handful of interviews in Atlanta (where the search firm Parker Executive Search is located) with four or more current head coaches who had teams in this year's NCAA Tournament, Northwestern is zeroing in on Duke associate head coach Chris Collins as its next basketball coach.
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Collins was the runaway choice of athletic director Jim Phillips who is looking to take Northwestern's basketball program to the next level. The school, who hosted the first-ever Final Four in 1939 has never played in the tournament and that mountain is something Phillips is determined to climb in the near future.
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Sources have confirmed to me Collins could be named within the next 36 hours but would continue in his role as the top assistant to Mike Krzyzewski as Duke continues on the road towards a possible National Title and would join the Wildcats once the Blue Devils season is completed.
Collins has made it clear to the Northwestern administration that he understands the limitations that currently exist with Welsh-Ryan Arena and he also embraces what Northwestern stands for and is not looking for the school to lower their academic standards to become more competitive in men's basketball. He is very much in the mold of Northwestern's football coach Pat Fitzgerald -- who is approximately the same age as Collins -- and he is considered a similar personality to Fitzgerald, who is beloved on the Northwestern campus.
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With Duke playing in Indianapolis, the timing sets up for a press conference early next week to capitalize on the momentum that Collins' hiring is expected to generate in the Chicago area and in the college basketball world.
The hiring should become a topic of conversation on the CBS NCAA Tournament broadcasts that Duke plays in and gives Northwestern a national stage to create major excitement around a program that has long been absent from the national scene.
Phillips has zeroed in on Collins since dismissing Bill Carmody on March 16th and while he has talked with a number of basketball types to gauge their opinion, he sees in Collins the type of coach that can build Northwestern basketball into a program that can do what the football program has done under Fitzgerald in accomplishing national relevance.