Chris Collins accepts NU challenge

Chris Collins dined in the Chicago area Wednesday with Northwestern President Morton Schapiro, sources told the Tribune.

Here's guessing they raised a glass and spoke of their sweet expectations -- to end the Wildcats' 75-year run of missing the NCAA tournament.

More than 12 hours after reports indicated that Collins had agreed to succeed Bill Carmody as NU's coach, the deal finally became official at 9:40 p.m. Wednesday.

That's when the school confirmed the hiring, with Collins saying: "Northwestern University is a special place that strives for excellence in every regard, and our program will be no different."

The 38-year-old Collins starred at Glenbrook North and was voted Mr. Basketball of Illinois in 1992. He excelled as a guard at Duke, serving as a team captain and earning All-ACC honors as a senior.

He joined coach Mike Krzyzewski's staff in 2000 and became Duke's associate head coach in 2008.

During his 13 seasons in Durham, Duke has gone 385-77 with eight ACC tournament championships.

"(Collins) has a tremendous pedigree and will be an outstanding leader for Chicago's Big Ten Team," NU athletic director Jim Phillips said in a news release. "He is a perfect fit for this institution."

Krzyzewski told the Greensboro (N.C.) News&Record on Wednesday: "He has a great basketball mind, a competitive personality. He's a team guy. A great guy. He's a great basketball guy, too."

By announcing the hiring before Duke's Sweet 16 game against Michigan State on Friday, NU basketball will get added national exposure.

A source said he believed Collins would not come to Evanston for an introduction until Duke's season is in the books.

Collins was the fifth and final candidate that Northwestern interviewed, sources said. Phillips, Senior AD Mike Polisky and Deputy AD Chris Reynolds met with him Monday evening in Atlanta, headquarters of the Parker Executive Search Firm.

By then, Phillips had heard from numerous alums who believed Collins could do for NU basketball what Pat Fitzgerald has done for NU football -- build a consistent winner, sell the program and help with the donors who will be asked to contribute to facility upgrades.

Collins never has been a head coach, and some wonder whether a rookie will get chewed up in the Big Ten by the likes of Michigan State's Tom Izzo, Wisconsin's Bo Ryan and Michigan's John Beilein.

"You have to start somewhere," ESPN's Dick Vitale said. "Roy Williams was a 10-year assistant for Dean Smith before he got the Kansas job."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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