The first piece to the puzzle is in place. Northwestern announced Friday that Tavaras Hardy, a former NU player and member of Bill Carmody's staff, will remain on the Wildcats' coaching staff under Chris Collins. Hardy was on staff for seven years under Carmody — the first five as an assistant and the last two as associate head coach. He'll be an assistant for Collins.
Typically, new head coaches like to bring in their own assistants for their staff, but Collins has never been a head coach before, so there was a lot of speculation that he could retain either Hardy or Fred Hill, who has experience recruiting New Jersey. However, PurpleWildcats.com reported earlier this week that Hill would not stay on staff, which meant Hardy staying on seemed likely. Lots of people — fans and media, alike — were commending Collins for the move. Hardy has strong support among NU fans — even those who wanted Carmody gone — and is seen as a good face for the program, as well as a strong recruiter in Chicago. This quote from Collins in the release reflects that sentiment:
"His first-hand experience as a student-athlete at Northwestern is a tremendous asset to the program in that he understands what a special place this is and what it takes to be successful here. He is an outstanding talent in our profession and has a great understanding of the game. Tavaras has an excellent ability to communicate with young players which makes him a terrific recruiter and mentor."
The communication aspect is often over-analyzed, and it's a bit of a cliche to describe young coaches, but with Hardy, it seems to fit. Hardy headed up NU's recruiting under Carmody and brought a young energy to a staff that many felt needed a youth makeover. While Carmody was a great coach, he wasn't a huge "promoter of the program" like Pat Fitzgerald is for the football team. Many NU fans wanted a "basketball Fitz" out of the coaching search, and Collins and Hardy both seem to fit that mold. More than any other member of Carmody's staff, Hardy fits the new, youthful direction of NU's basketball coach staff, so it makes sense to keep him on staff.
While this is now Collins' program and he'll bring in his own people, it's important to retain at least some continuity for the sake of the players who are already at NU. Hardy already has relationships with those players and personally recruited many of them. This should help ease some of the transition, and it will likely help NU keep Drew Crawford, who some feared would transfer from the program for his final year of eligibility.
As far as recruiting goes, it's unclear how Hardy will be used. As Collins said in the statement, Hardy is known as a great recruiter, and he has experience heading up NU's recruiting efforts on Carmody's staff. However, his recruiting area was Chicago, which is the same as the area Collins recruited at Duke. While Hardy and Collins have experience recruiting both the city and the suburbs, Hardy is from the city and Collins is from the suburbs — Hardy is from Joliet, but has lived in the city in his adult life. There's a big difference, especially to kids from the city. When Duke commit Jabari Parker, who was recruited by Collins, was asked about Collins' Chicago ties, Parker replied that Collins "is not from Chicago — he's from Northbrook." This isn't to say Collins can't recruit the city — he got Parker to Duke — but Hardy gives NU ties to the city. However, given Collins' Chicago ties, Hardy could take on more responsibilities, as well.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of Collins' staff comes together, and what that means for recruiting. Hardy will likely be the lone carryover from the last staff, but Collins will need to find assistants with "broad-based" recruiting ties to help NU become the national program he hopes it can be some day. Stay tuned for more soon, as Collins plans to put together the rest of his staff fairly quickly.