Chris Collins' staff couldn't have come together more perfectly, at least in terms of Chicago recruiting. Collins, himself, has recruited the area for years, and in addition to his own knowledge of the area, he brought in a Northwestern alum in Patrick Baldwin and a former area high school coach with NBA connections in Brian James. And perhaps the crown jewel of his new staff was keeping a member of the old one — Tavaras Hardy, who had played at NU and has a great reputation as a Chicago recruiter and a player developer at the college level.
On Wednesday, Collins' staff took a major hit with the news that Hardy would leave NU for Georgetown. We'll get into what this means for NU in a second – it means plenty — but to start things off, this is a big (and well-deserved) move for Hardy. The general consensus is that eventually, Hardy will be a head coach. Some thought it would happen at NU once Bill Carmody left, but it became clear that the opportunity to lead the Wildcats went out the door when young Chris Collins was hired. The timing was right for Hardy, even if it wasn't right for NU.
Northwestern will always be Hardy's home, but sometimes you have to leave home to find better opportunities. And while NU may be on the rise, there's no doubt that this was a better opportunity for Hardy. It's an opportunity for him to make a name for himself at one of the nation's finest programs and under one of the nation's most respected coaches. That's the kind of exposure that can lead to a head coaching job at a good mid-major, which could serve as a stepping stone to college basketball's big time.
It's a big move for Georgetown, too. The Hoyas have never had much of a presence in Chicago, and now they get one of the area's most respected recruiters to help them find players in one of the nation's most fertile recruiting grounds. They've already made a move, it seems, offering Whitney Young star Paul White just after the Hardy news broke. From a basketball standpoint, the hire makes sense, too. Georgetown runs a variation of the Princeton offense, which Hardy has experience coaching and experience selling to recruits.
Overall, this move is a loss for NU, but a win for Hardy and a win for Georgetown. Now the question becomes, just how big of a loss is it for NU?
Collins has made it clear that he wants a stake in Chicago, and he started out his career at NU by forming a very Chicago-centric staff. As we mentioned above, Collins and his assistants all have Chicago ties, so they have enough relationships in the area to still be a major recruiting player. Hardy wasn't a trump card by any means, but give him the Georgetown name to recruit against NU — he'll almost certainly be focused on Chicago — and the Wildcats just got another major opponent to deal with in an area already saturated with coaches looking for talent.
Hardy had ties to many major NU targets for the class of 2014 — of the realistic targets, that includes Marcus Bartley, Josh Cunningham and Tyler Ulis. However, those players are also involved with Collins, and since much of the excitement around the program has to do with Collins' hiring, it would be ridiculous to call this a "game-changer." But it certainly doesn't help, and having Georgetown as competition for recruits like White and other high-caliber players (Ulis, anyone?) will be yet another obstacle for an NU program that is already forced to recruit against programs with more resources, history and exposure.
Essentially it boils down to this — the sky is not falling, and NU still has a staff perfectly capable of being a major player on the Chicago recruiting scene. However, the Wildcats have lost one of the best recruiters in the area, and now he's one of their competitors, but with a much bigger name backing him.
With Hardy gone, the attention turns toward the future. Collins technically still has two spots to fill on his staff, but Brian James' hiring is expected to be announced soon. Basing things off Collins' hiring trend so far, Hardy's replacement figures to have some sort of roots in Chicago. Some possible options include Nate Pomeday, an NU alum who currently recruits Chicago as an assistant coach at Oregon State, and Ryan Marks, a former Texas Pan-American coach who is a self-professed NU fan and has lots of Chicago ties.
Whatever the future holds, the fairytale start to the Collins era at NU has ended. Even without Hardy, there is still plenty of potential for a staff that has renewed excitement in the NU fan base, but things definitely just got a little bit tougher.