At Northwestern, words like "expectations," "hype" and "potential" usually are associated with football. But lately those words are starting to float around the men's basketball team. The reason for this phenomenon: new coach Chris Collins.
It's rare for a first-year coach of a team that finished 13-19 the previous season to be treated like an A-list celebrity, but that's the effect the Chicago-area native is having on campus. The 39-year-old has yet to coach his team in a regular-season game, but his list of accomplishments in a short period have caught the attention of the Wildcats faithful and made him a Hollywood-like rising star.
For starters, a new style of play is being introduced after years of struggle under Bill Carmody's "Princeton offense." This new style—which includes a sorely lacking transition game—should give this rebuilding program a much-needed boost.
"We're just trying to lay the foundation for how hard we're gonna play," Collins said.
As modest as his words sound, they are making a ton of difference. Same goes for Collins' 2014 recruiting class, which includes St. Rita's Vic Law. He is Northwestern's first Top-75 recruit since all-Big Ten center Evan Eschmeyer.
The son of former Bulls coach Doug Collins is already leaps and bounds ahead of other Chicago-area schools because of his ability to recruit locally. He also convinced Drew Crawford, one of the team's best players, to stay for his final year of eligibility, and prevented player transfers that have hurt other local programs this offseason.
"I'm a competitive person," Collins said of his accomplishments thus far. "I'm looking forward to seeing what we can become as a team."
Considering what he already has achieved, there are now heightened expectations of the young coach. Big Ten opponents show no mercy on the court, and Northwestern's performance in conference play will dictate Collins' future success.
For now, "Chicago's Big Ten Team" seems headed in the right direction.
Gabe Salgado is a RedEye special contributor.
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