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Like Father, Like Son: Northwestern's Chris Collins Carries on Dad's Legacy

In the Collins family, basketball runs in the veins. Son of a former NBA coach, Chris has his own case to prove as a student and teacher of the game.

Like father, like son
Like father, like son
Nathan Richards

Chris Collins grew up breathing basketball. Raised on the north shore of Chicago, some of his earliest memories can be traced to watching his father coach college basketball, first as an assistant at University of Pennsylvania, then at Arizona State University. As a kid, Chris excelled at the game his father loved, soaring up the ranks of young basketball players throughout the nation. When Doug, his father, was offered the job as the head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1986, Chris was only 12 years old. However, both father and son were hard at work. While dad focused on coaching a team led by a young player named Michael Jordan, son put in extra hours in the gym, shooting and doing passing drills. It would be hard then to see where they would be now.

Flash forward 29 years. Doug Collins is an ex-NBA head coach turned ESPN basketball analyst. After leading the Bulls to multiple playoff appearances, he was fired but then took the same job with the Detroit Pistons. In a journey which included team after team and broadcast network after network, Collins now resides with his wife in Delaware Valley and frequently appears as a commentator on the NBA on ESPN and the pre-game show NBA Countdown. All said and done, his resume includes four NBA All-Star appearances as a player, one as a head coach and countless years of experience in the video booth.

Chris also has had a little bit of his own success. As a high schooler, his accolades included McDonald's All American, Mr. Basketball Illinois and McDonalds All American Three-Point Champion. He then was offered a scholarship to play basketball under Coach K at Duke University. Finishing his college career as a team captain and second-team All-ACC winner, he chose to continue his playing career in Europe. Chris then returned and worked his way up the coaching ladder, first as an assistant in the WNBA, then with Tommy Amaker at Seton Hall. In 2000, he finally received an offer to coach at his alma mater along side menor Mike Krzyzewski. Highlights there included his major role in signing fellow Glenbrook North Mr. Basketball Illinois winner Jon Scheyer to play at Duke. While there he captured a national title of his own when his Blue Devils beat the Butler Bulldogs to win the 2010 national championship.

When the Northwestern job opened up in 2013 after the firing of Bill Carmody, Collins was an immediate target. His familiarity with the Chicagoland area plus his past success as an assistant and recruiter at Duke gave him more than enough experience for the position.

Now entering the third season as head coach for the Wildcats, Collins is out to plant his own legacy. In his first year, he led the Cats to their first three-game road winning streak since 1960,  including a huge upset win over the 14th ranked Wisconsin Badgers. This was followed up the next season with a string of near-upset wins that gave rise to a fantastic latter half of the Big Ten season. Northwestern went on to win four straight conference games, including a double OT thriller at home over Michigan.

In the entire history of the program, Northwestern has never made an NCAA tournament. As a member of the Big Ten conference, they have finished the season above fourth place twice since World War II, documenting a long and fruitless struggle to compete with the top teams in the country. Collins hopes he can be the change they all need.

If Chris Collins leads Northwestern to their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, his legacy will be cemented in Wildcat folklore. As he enters the 2015-2016 season, that opportunity remains, and maybe he has the power to take it. If one thing's for sure, it would make Dad very, very proud.