Today, Northwestern announced what we've anticipated for months. NU officially formalized the addition of assistant coach Brian James to Chris Collins' staff, which gives the Wildcats two of three assistants. It was already common knowledge that James would be joining the staff, but now that it's official, he's in Evanston along with other the other assistant coach Patrick Baldwin.
"We're very excited to add Brian James to our staff," Collins said in an official statement to the athletic department. "He has been a big part of my family going back to my high school days when he was my coach. Brian has been a great mentor for me. A lot of the things that I have carried with me throughout my playing and coaching career are things that I've learned from him. I look forward to having him on staff to lend his expertise. His experience coaching great players in the NBA for so many years will be a huge asset to our program as we move forward."
James was Collins' coach at Glenbrook North High School and has spent time in the NBA as both a scout and an assistant coach. Most recently, he was an assistant coach for Doug Collins and the Philadelphia 76ers. He has a unique background for a college coach, because he has never had to recruit. However, he has a lot of relationships already built up in the Chicago area, so that should help him. The NBA aspect will also be big in recruiting. Northwestern has never had NBA ties like this — from Collins' dad to James' direct experience as an NBA coach. That's important to top recruits, and it gives the Wildcats a new "plus-factor" that had been lacking before.
It's tough to judge this staff too much right now. We know that they're getting NU's name out in Chicago and clearly building more excitement around the program than there has been in a long time. However, by choosing this staff, Collins has made it clear that he wants a stake in Chicago, and James is just one part of that equation. All three coaches have ties to the area. Collins is from Glenbrook North and recruited the area while at Duke. James, as we mentioned, coached at Glenbrook North. Patrick Baldwin played for the Wildcats and has experience recruiting for Loyola, and former assistant Tavaras Hardy, who left for Georgetown, played for NU and recruited Chicago under Bill Carmody. Considering that pattern, it's likely Hardy's replacement will have at least some Chicago experience.
Northwestern is always going to be a national program, because it's a national, academically-focused university. However, it appears that recruiting will start and end in Chicago, as it should. While NU has gotten some big names from Chicago on campus, it's going to be tough for the Wildcats to start getting top recruits to flock to Evanston all of the sudden. However, as the name keeps getting out there and as the coaches start building relationships with more and more schools, players and coaches in the Chicago area, there will eventually be a star local player who decides to attend NU. That's Collins' hope, anyways. And by putting this staff together, he's made that plan very clear.