Northwestern is heading into Saturday's night's B1G conference battle with Michigan on the road in Ann Arbor. The Wildcats enter the game 1-3 in the conference and 10-7 overall as second year head coach Chris Collins, looks for a way to turn the program around, one game at a time.
Collins is in his second year in Evanston and his goal is a simple one - make the Wildcats, the Duke of the B1G. Okay, I will grant you that Collins goal might be less than simple, given that Northwestern hasn't made the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. But give the guy credit for not aiming low.
If you look at Duke in the ACC, Vanderbilt in the SEC, Stanford in the Pac 12, Baylor in the Big 12 as well as Harvard, Princeton and Penn in the Ivy League, they all have one thing in common. They are big time academic schools, with long histories of success, on the basketball court.
There can be no doubt that Collins sees Northwestern as a place where winning basketball can happen and he thinks he is the guy to make it happen. But then again he is a coaches' son, who has had some of the best teachers in the business.
His father Doug Collins, was a star in the NBA playing for the Philadelphia 76ers. The elder Collins would go on to coach, the Chicago Bulls, the Detroit Pistons, the Washington Wizards and finally the team he once played for, the Philadelphia 76ers.
Dad is now a broadcaster for ESPN, is considered by many who played for him, including Michael Jordan, one of the best teachers of the game in the business. Anyone, who has seen the elder Collins serve as analyst on TV can see that he is a master at breaking down the game and explaining how things work, in a way we can all understand.
The young Collins learned a great deal from his father and he also learned all about the college game from another iconic coach. He of course played at Duke for the legendary Mike Krzyzewski and later he served as a assistant coach on his staff.
As a matter of fact it was Krzyzewski that pitched the idea of Collins to Northwestern to replace outgoing coach Bill Carmody after the 2012-13 season. He learned from "Coach K," that winning in college is all about recruiting.
This year he landed some great young freshman like Scottie Lindsey, Johnnie Vassar and Gavin Skelly. The trio were good enough to garner the Wildcats the 31st best overall recruiting class coming into the season according to ESPN.
Collins understands that if he can win the battle of recruiting in Chicago and keep some of the talent at home then winning at Northwestern, will come in time. His 2015 recruiting class has some top young stars headed to Evanston, led by one of Rivals top rated power forwards in the entire country.
The Wildcats landed 6′-8″ Aaron Falzon of Northfield Mt. Hermon (MA), who was high on the radar at Harvard and Boston College. Collins second recruiting class also includes another big guy in Derek Pardon, from Cleveland's, St. Joseph High School. Meanwhile, in-state shooting guard Jordan Ash, at 6'2" is being compared to Isiah Thomas,while staring at Chicago's St. Joseph's High School.
So, while patience is something Wildcats fans have proven they have, as the team has a record of 962-1425-1, since they started playing in basketball in1901. Slowly but surely the fortunes are turning, they are not yet Duke, but improvement can be seen.
Coach Collins, is using everything he learned from his father and "Coach K," to turn Northwestern into a winner. If he can continue to recruit at the rate he is going now, winning will come sooner as opposed to later for the Wildcats.