Chris Collins had his introductory press conference at Northwestern just now, and, well, it's pretty fun to see somebody actually excited about Northwestern basketball.
So the Basketball Fitz thing is played up. Chris Collins is not Pat Fitzgerald, and Pat Fitzgerald is not Chris Collins. They were born to different parents - although in a relatively short span of time, within about 40 miles of each other - and lived different lives.
But there is one thing that, when everything's put aside, rings true about Pat Fitzgerald. The guy's crazy about his institution. He loves the school that gave him the opportunity to be a player, and he sells that love to every recruit, coach, and fan he can.
With Chris Collins, I didn't think we'd get the same thing. He's a Dukie. Although I knew he'd do his best at Northwestern, and that he was thrilled to get his first coaching job, there was no real evidence this was anything besides his first coaching job. A stepping stone, perhaps. And I didn't blame him for that - that's what Northwestern was looking for.
Judging from his comments Tuesday, this dude is head over heels for this school. He loves the opportunity, the ability to coach close to home, the chance to coach Northwestern-y kids, and the chance to do things nobody has done before. Maybe it's coach speak, but he seemed genuine and emotional and passionate, and even if it was, it's sort of a special brand of coach speak.
Let's take a look at what was said. (There'll be a clause here or there missing, but generally gets the gist.)
- Jim Phillips spoke briefly, opening by saying that we "start a new era of Northwestern basketball." he highlighted four attributes - instutitional fit, recruiting, compliance, and on-and-off-court success - as things they were looking for. He
- Then, Collins spoke:
I'm excited about the future of Northwestern basketball. We wanted to look at a place we felt we could call home for a long time. As I talked to Dr. Phillips and Pres. Schapiro and saw the vision in their eyes for this program, everything Northwestern University stands for, its everything I've always been about. That's why this situation I feel for me is a perfect fit.
We heard that phrase a few times: "perfect fit". Not just for him, but he'll also be searching - far and wide, it seems - for players he feel fit Northwestern too.
I think Northwestern has a lot to sell. You think Northwestern, you think well-rounded excellence. There are plenty of players out there that want to be a part of a situation like that. Chicago - best sports city in the world, beautiful campus, hopefully the opportunity to want to play for myself as I get started, a young energetic coach, and I just believe there's guys out of there that want to be a part of it. It's up to me to go out there and find those guys and get them to Evanston.
There are plenty of young men in this country - and in other countries, as you see from the roster - that fit the profile. There are a lot of positives, and I view the academic requirements as a positive. It adds to the value of the young man I want to bring in. Talent is one thing, but you can only win if you have talent and character.
But back to himself, he really does think this is the spot for him:
For me, I've always been taught, if you're presented with opportunities, you always answer the phone. I always felt in my heart that I would know when it was right, and when this situation came about, I felt it in my heart. It's a slam dunk.
And leaving Duke gives him the opportunity to blaze his own trail - both from his father and Coach Krzyzewski. He said he's excited to leave Duke - a place where everything was in place when he came - and create his own legacy. Intttterrrrrrrressssssting.
- Money quotex:
You may talk about going to the NCAA Tournament, and that's going to be a great milestone when we get there, but my goal is to build a top-notch basketball team.
We're gonna build a winner. I'm confident. I'm excited. But I also know it's going to take work.
It's not about going to one NCAA Tournament. It's about doing more than that
- On Chicago:
"I can't tell you all enough how excited I am to be back in Chicago. This is home for me, not matter where my travels and trails ever went, Chicago is always home."
He later was asked about recruiting the city:
I want to recruit Chicago, there's no question about it. Best basketball city in the country. I argue that all the time, since we have players from all over the country and I put Chicago No. 1. I want to recruit Chicago, and I want kids to want to stay home. But I also just want to find the guys that it's the perfect fit for them to play here, and it doesn't matter to me where they're from. We intend to look everywhere.
- Collins feels he can do stuff with the current players. He met with the team last night - no word on if Drew Crawford was one of the players - and said that since he's a basketball junkie and had seen the team play several times, the team was "stunned by the familiarity" he already had with them and their games. (As a basketball junkie, I swooned at that.)
I've had the chance to watch these guys play the last couple of years. There's talent. It'll be new for everybody. I'm not going into the season like "we can't win" or it's not going to happen. I want to win this year, and it's up to me and the staff I put around me to put the team in the right position to be successful. I believe in the talent we have in this program, and that we have the talent to be successful even in the first year.
He also said about his system:
One of the things I believe about coaching is you should tailor what you do based on your personnel. What I plan to do is work on player development and help these guys get better over the course of the spring. As we get into the fall and realize who our team is going to be I'm going to create a system that will fit the team we have. I don't believe in a strict system that we're going to plug the guys in year to year.
He'll figure out who his best players are year to year and go from there.
- He said he and his father talk daily, and that there's more give and take now that they're both coaches, and that although his father was wearing purple Tuesday, it would be a "huge pay cut" for him to join the staff as an assistant from being an NBA coach. But that he wouldn't rule it out in the future. He did repeatedly say that he wants his own legacy, and that it's been nice to have his father do the NBA while he does college.
- Collins had some interesting comments about Welsh-Ryan Arena and fan support. He compared it to Cameron Indoor Stadium - yeeaahhhhhhh, about that - remembering a 1992 high school game he played where the stadium was packed. He said the key is going to be the atmosphere, despite the lack of the state of the art facilty.
Collins: "My goal for Welsh-Ryan is let's make this a heck of a home court advantage. Let's get people in the building & excited." #B1GCats— Northwestern Sports (@NU_Sports) April 2, 2013
He wants to get on campus ASAP to meet students and get them excited about this program.
- Collins hasn't made any final decisions about the staff - he'll meet with everybody currently there and go forward. So everybody has a shot, I guess.
And it starts now:
April is a big recruiting month, I want to hit the ground running. I want to talk to everybody on thec urrent staff, and spend time with them and figure out what's going to be the best for me. Developing a great staff is one of the key components to being successful. I want guys that are going to fight together and compliment each other and me and help me become better.
- On the Coach K Assistants Can't Be Successful Meme:
I think it's funny you're going to say that. If you're going to measure success with Coach K's done, than everybody's a failure. I hope to be the kind of guys (Amaker, Brey, Dawkins) are. (As the son of a pro athlete/coach) I'm used to people saying negative things or getting on you so that kind of stuff doesn't bother me. The only thing I can say is I'm my own guy and I plan to blaze my own trail, and this is the right place for me to do that.
Chris Collins is biting off a whole bunch with this. He said he wants to a) take Northwestern to multiple NCAA tournaments b) by recruiting kids who are academic, high-character fits for the institution and c) pack Welsh-Ryan Arena without making significant upgrades.
That would be so highly unlikely it's not even funny. That's such a reach.
But it's a change, for Northwestern basketball. Here, we're used to aiming low and failing. Chris Collins does not appear interested in that, and I can get behind it.