Northwestern has its head coach or next season, officially announcing the hiring of Chris Collins last night, but the Wildcats and Collins have a lot to do to put together the program before the season starts. With that in mind, here's our checklist of the three most important things Collins needs to do once he settles in.
1. Assemble a staff
It's tough to speculate on who Collins will bring in as his assistant coaches, since he's never been a head coach before. In fact, there's a lot more mystery surrounding NU's assistant coaching search than there ever was in its head coaching search. However, there are four names worth discussing right now — Fred Hill, Tavaras Hardy, Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer. Not that these guys are competing for spots or anything, but they're all intriguing for different reasons.
First, Hill and Hardy. Both were on Bill Carmody's staff and have been discussed as potential carry-overs to Collins' staff. It's rare that there's any assistant coach carry-over from staff to staff in coaching changes, since most coaches like to start fresh and bring in their own guys. However, Collins has never been a head coach before, so he's in a different spot than a lot of mid-major coaches who take on high-major jobs.
There's still a lot working against Hill and Hardy getting spots on the new staff — mainly because of the "start fresh" idea — but there are arguments to keep both. The biggest argument to keep Hill is because of his ties to New Jersey and NU's potential top 100 recruit, Jaren Sina, since Hill has ties to Sina dating back to his days at Rutgers. We'll address this more below, but while it'd be nice for NU to keep Sina, it's important to note that Collins won't retain Hill just to keep Sina, just like NU didn't hire a head coach with that in mind. This is about building for the future, not keeping a single recruit. However, Hill has great ties in the New Jersey area and could be an asset there, and Hill also worked with Collins at Seton Hall.
Then there's Hardy, who was Carmody's No. 2 and was a young, energetic face for that regime. Hardy recruited the Chicago area, where Collins has already supplanted himself, but Collins has more ties to the suburbs, while Hardy has more ties to the city, but both have shown an ability to recruit the city and the suburbs — the "recruiting Chicago" narrative is a bit overplayed. Hill and Hardy both have things they can offer, but again, it's not likely that coaches from the old staff are retained.
On the Duke side, the most obvious candidate is Greg Paulus, who played basketball at Duke before transferring to play football at Syracuse, and is currently Ohio State's video coordinator. Paulus would make a lot of sense for Collins, who coached him, and you'd have to assume Paulus would jump at the opportunity. PurpleWildcats.com reported that Paulus is likely to join the NU staff, so that may be the first official move.
The other former Duke player who's received a little buzz is Jon Scheyer, who, like Collins, is from Northbrook. Scheyer has no experience as a coach, so he's less likely of a candidate than Paulus, but it probably wouldn't take much to lure him from an up-and-down professional career overseas. Scheyer is just 25, so he may decide it's not yet time to give up on his playing career, but he's an option to keep an eye on.
There are certain to be more rumors and more potential candidates that come up in the coming days, but expect Collins to piece together his coaching staff relatively quickly. We'll have more updates as they come.
As with all coaching changes, Collins now has to go through the process of "re-recruiting" both of NU's incoming recruits and its current players to prevent transfers. Some current NU players seem excited, about the new coach, but Collins will still need to secure the rest of this team, which may be NU's most talented team ever if everyone returns. Some people have been worried about Drew Crawford, who could transfer and play his senior season without sitting out a year — i.e. what Swopshire did at NU — but most of that worry just comes from the fact that Crawford COULD potentially do that — he hasn't indicated that he will look into it at all.
The biggest "re-recruiting" job Collins faces will likely be Jaren Sina, a top-100 guard from New Jersey who is arguably the most-hyped recruit NU has ever gotten. Sina reopened his recruitment after Carmody was fired, and while he will still consider NU, he didn't have much to say about Collins' hiring. As we mentioned before, some people are making a bigger deal out of this than they probably should. Sina would be a great player for NU to have, but this is about building for the future, and Collins isn't going to hire a certain assistant or change the direction of the program just to get Sina to Evanston.
3. Setting up a recruiting base
This is more of a long-term "to-do" item than the first two and a lot of it depends on how the staff plays out. The 2013 recruiting period is just about done, but Collins has a lot to do in catching up with 2014 and 2015 recruits. Recruiting isn't a year-to-year thing — coaches build relationships with players starting in late middle school and early high school, so Collins and his staff will have to hurry up that process. He already has contacts with a number of potential Duke recruits, but NU and Duke typically don't get the same caliber players (though NU certainly hopes this hire can take the program to Duke heights eventually).
Once the staff is in place, Collins will have to assign regions for each of his assistants to recruit. Collins is familiar with the Chicago area, and since NU is supposedly "Chicago's Big Ten Team," there will certainly be an emphasis on Chicago. However, NU has a national alumni base and it's a very "national" university (much like Duke), so Collins won't limit NU to Chicago. As we mentioned earlier, Fred Hill has ties to New Jersey, so that's a reason his name has come up so much as a potential carry-over from the Carmody era. As Collins starts naming assistants, keep in mind where those coaches' ties lie. Ultimately, expect NU to try to brand itself as a national program with a base in the Chicago area.