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Northwestern might battle Illinois— to hire Chris Collins

Updated: April 19, 2012 8:21AM

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Duke ­associate head coach Chris Collins’ phone is usually ringing. But it was never this bad.

Collins, who is from Northbrook and was a standout at Glenbrook North, has been linked to the ­Illinois coaching vacancy since Bruce ­Weber was fired last week.

It would be a coup for Illinois and new athletic director Mike Thomas to get Collins, since he was instrumental in getting another Glenbrook North star, Jon Scheyer, to choose Duke over Illinois.

And if Northwestern loses to Washington Friday in a National Invitation Tournament second-round game, Collins’ name could come up in yet another coaching search.

Wildcats coach Bill Carmody has one year left on his contract. With NU missing out on an NCAA tournament bid after a month of hype, there is a chance athletic director Jim Phillips could make a change.

Phillips has been mum on Carmody’s status. But Collins would be an attractive hire. He has 12 ­seasons under coach Mike Krzyzewski and understands the high academic standards of a school like NU.

Also, Duke athletic director ­Kevin White has been Phillips’ mentor since their days at Notre Dame and Arizona State.

“I try to stay away from it as much as possible, especially now and you don’t want any little thing to distract you,” Collins said.

Krzyzewski knows Collins is ready. Collins has coached NBA stars Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James under ­Krzyzewski during the 2008 ­Beijing Olympics.

“Chris is unbelievable,” Krzyzewski said. “Remember, Chris has been with me six years with the Olympic team. Most coaches would never have that opportunity.”

And it seemed like Collins left the door open to return home.

“I love Chicago; it’s my favorite city and it’s my home,” Collins said. “There’s no question it’s my favorite place to be.”

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