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Northwestern, Chris Collins close on coaching job

A report says Northwestern University has hired Duke associate head men's basketball coach Chris Collins (right) be head men's basketball

A report says Northwestern University has hired Duke associate head men's basketball coach Chris Collins (right) to be head men's basketball coach. | Getty Images

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Updated: March 27, 2013 1:50PM

Chris Collins is not Northwestern’s new head coach — yet.

A source with knowledge of the search told the Sun-Times the Duke associate head coach and former McDonald’s All-American from Glenbrook North is almost certain to succeed Bill Carmody, who was fired March 16 after compiling a 192-210 record, best in school history.

Collins has been considered the front-runner all along. The source said Tuesday the job was Collins’s for the taking after he impressed Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips during an off-campus interview on Monday. The two sides could be working out contract details.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke with reporters Wednesday and said the deal is not yet complete.

“I hope that’s what it turns out to be,” Krzyzewski said. “That’s not a done deal yet. I hope that it will be and that will be terrific and I’ll comment on it if that’s happens.”

La Salle coach John Giannini, Valparaiso’s Bryce Drew and Bucknell’s Dave Paulson were also candidates.

Collins, 38, has never been a head coach but has been mentored by his father Doug, a former NBA player and current coach, and Mike Krzyzewski, who has coached Duke to four NCAA Titles and 11 Final Fours in 33 years.

Collins would be leaving one of the most successful programs in the nation for one of the least accomplished. Northwestern has not earned an NCAA Tournament bid in 75 years. High entrance requirements, outdated facilities and the lack of tradition are among the reasons why 11 previous NU coaches had losing career records.

“Well they’ll get a great one,” Krzyzewski said when asked what kind of coach NU would be getting. “He has been a great coach here. I’ve said that at press conferences in the NCAA Tournament. I’ve said it at press conferences at the Olympics and at the World Championships in Istanbul. My guys are terrific.”

“He’s been with me for over a decade and he has been terrific. Not good. He’s got a great basketball mind, competitive personality, a team guy, a great guy. But he’s a great basketball guy, too. Anybody who would get one of my guys would be getting something pretty special.”

The injury-depleted Wildcats finished 13-19 last season after losing one key starter to an academic suspension before the season began and two others to season-ending injuries. Many thought the suspension and injuries would be viewed as out of Carmody’s control and he would therefore be allowed to coach the final year of his contract, but Phillips announced the program needed a new direction at an emotional press conference.

It is not known whether Collins will begin his new duties or remain with Duke for the remainder of their NCAA Tournament run. The sixth-ranked Blue Devils play Michigan State in a Sweet 16 game in Indianapolis on Friday night.

Critics of the hire cite Collins’ lack of head coaching experience, the elite nature of the players he recruited to Duke compared to those he will attract at Northwestern and the mostly mediocre results produced by other Krzyzewski assistants who became head coaches.

It’s possible Doug Collins could join his son in an official or nonofficial capacity. The Sixers coach told the Philadelphia Daily News last month that serving as an assistant for Chris would be his “dream job.” Doug Collins’ future with the 76ers is unknown. He has said he will re-evaluate his role with the team at season’s end.

One of Collins’ first priorities will be to re-recruit Jaren Sina. The 6-foot-2 point guard from Gill St. Bernard’s (N.J.) has asked for and was given his release from Northwestern after Carmody was fired.

Sina is one of the highest-rated recruits in recent Northwestern memory and is being pursued by several schools, including Seton Hall. He had previously committed to Alabama. Sina averaged 21.2 points and 9.1 assists during his senior season.

“He was the first person that recruited me,” Duke’s Mason Plumlee said. “First of all, I think that’s a great, great fit for him. I’m not a coach myself, but knowing Coach Collins — he knows that area well.”

“He’s got all the players’ respect. Just being around him. I mean, after my first practice here, I was like ‘This guy knows what he’s doing and what he’s talking about.’ He’s had the experience and had been around great coaches all his life. He’s going to fit into that mode very well.”

Pekin High forward Nathan Taphorn, NU’s other recruit, is expected to honor his commitment.

Players can sign letters of intent starting April 17.

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