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Capel, Collins head Northwestern basketball’s coaching wish list

Oklahomhead coach Jeff Capel yells his players during first half first round  NCAA East Regional basketball game against Saint

Oklahoma head coach Jeff Capel yells to his players during the first half of first round NCAA East Regional basketball game against Saint Joseph's in Birmingham, Ala., Friday, March 21, 2008. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

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Updated: March 19, 2013 10:50PM

The job Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips is trying to fill is the most difficult in the Big Ten and one of the most challenging in the nation.

Take it from someone who has been on the inside, doing what Bill Carmody couldn’t and leading the Wildcats to their first NCAA tournament berth won’t be easy.

“It’s pretty tough,” said Tim Doyle, a former Northwestern player and current Big Ten Network analyst. “On a scale of 1-10 it’s an 8½. It’s going to take someone really, really special.”

Phillips won’t have trouble finding candidates because he’s willing to triple or quadruple the salary of a successful coach at a mid-major. But whether the coach he hires can attract recruits to a school with no tradition and outdated facilities remains to be seen.

Phillips has said too much is being made of Northwestern’s lack of facilities. Others disagree.

“Facilities are important,” former Illinois coach Lou Henson said. “It would really help Northwestern if they could upgrade the facilities. You go to all these big arenas and then you go to Northwestern and it’s definitely a factor. Your facility needs to be comparable.”

Former Glenbrook North standout and Duke assistant coach Chris Collins is considered the leading candidate, but a source with knowledge of the situation said another Duke assistant likely will be of interest to Phillips, as well.

Jeff Capel won 175 games as the head coach at Virginia Commonwealth and Oklahoma. He recruited Blake Griffin and led the Sooners to the Elite Eight before returning to his alma mater.

Collins, who turned down an interview request from the Sun-Times, has never been a head coach before.

“People are going to be interested in coaching in the Big Ten, but one thing for sure about the conference, I’m not convinced they have the best players year-in and year-out,’’ Doyle said. ‘‘But you cannot argue that the coaches in this conference are the best in the country. There isn’t a guy who can’t get it done X- an O-wise. If they give the job to somebody with no coaching experience, talk about being thrown into the fire. If you can’t coach, you’re going to get exposed.

“[Collins] would bring great energy but he’s unproven. To come into a conference like this you better know what you’re doing.”

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