Seat of Chris Collins Could Warm After Another Losing Season Ends


No matter what happens to Chris Collins, 46, he’ll always be the guy that led Northwestern to its first and only NCAA tournament appearance in program history. Back then, and it certainly feels like “way back then” right now, the Wildcats went 24-12 overall and 10-8 in Big Ten play.

Falling, in very ugly fashion no less, 51-46 to Minnesota in the very first game of the Big Ten Tournament tonight, their season is now over. The following four campaigns have seen the program revert back to its usual form, as the Cats went 15-17 (6-12) in 2017-18, 13-19 (4-16) in 2018-19, 8-22 (3-17) in 2019-20 and 9-15 (6-13) this season.

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With the man who hired him, former Athletic Director Dr. James Phillips, now the ACC Commissioner, more changes could be coming to NU Athletics. A search committee was formed in December to find Phillips’ replacement while University President Morton Schapiro will retire in August of 2022.

New regimes typically mean new faces replacing those who are struggling in their current positions. If Northwestern has another losing season, where they find themselves a double digit seed again in the conference tournament, Collins’ job will be very insecure.

According to the Chciago Tribune, Collins current deal runs through 2024-25 and his salary is in excess of $3 million per. When he was signed to an extension in 2017, fresh off his career high point, he became one of the top 15 best paid coaches in college hoops.

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With his current contract, it means that at the end of next season, should it be yet another clunker, the school would have have to buyout three seasons and over 9 million in salary. What would that cost? I don’t know, it’s a private institution and the buyout clause hasn’t been made public.

Northwestern did improve this year, but how much is debatable. They started 6-1, including three straight Big Ten wins over then-No. 4 Michigan State (79-65, Dec. 20), Indiana (74-67, Dec. 23) and then-No. 23 Ohio State (71-70, Dec. 26).

The Cats even found themselves in the AP top 20, before the wheels then fell off and a 13 game losing streak settled in.

“It was a hard year with the covid stuff,” said Collins, who mentioned that his team has zero positive coronavirus tests the entire season. “Forget about wins and losses.”

Collins then listed out the numbers and metrics which point to his side’s improvement.

“We made a jump, we won six games, we had four or five quad 1 wins. that’s progress from where we were last year, in the hardest conference in the elague.”

It’s true that win over Ohio State aged nicely, as the Buckeyes are currently ranked #9 in the nation and in the mix for a #2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Had NU won tonight, a game in which they were favored by one, they would have seen the Bucks again tomorrow.

Northwestern didn’t score for the first seven minutes nor in the last four. They fell behind early, 16-2 yet still led by seven with four minutes left.

On the coronaversary, we saw a rematch of one of just two games to be played before the rest of the tournament was canceled. It was an ugly one, where both teams had issues scoring. The Gophers themselves have a coach on the hot seat, as many believe Richard Pitino could be in the last throes of his tenure.

For Chris Collins, he reiterated that his program is in rebuild, and that they’re still on the upward trajectory.

“We won three games last year with all freshmen and sophomores, he said. “We were a much better team this year than last year.”

He then referenced the 2018 to 2019 program makeover.

“We needed a reset, with where we were at- we went with a lot of young guys and we took our lumps with that. it’s hard to win in the big ten when you’re young.”

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One of Northwestern’s main players is Pete Nance, son of three time NBA All-Star and 1984 Slam Dunk champion Larry Nance. He says things are looking up, and he has a point, given how the team will be much more seasoned and experienced next year.

“I think we’re really close to taking that next step to fulfilling our potential of where we can be,” Nance said on the postgame media Zoom.

“I feel like we have good chemstsry and it’s only going to get better as we develop as players. I’m excited about what we

Chris Collins is now 118-132 overall and 49-98 in conference since he took over for Bill Carmody in 2013-14.

Yes, Northwestern improved this season, but not substantially. If they do improve next year, as many believe they will, then the jump needs to be much more significant.

“My goal is always the NCAA Tournament, if you don’t have that goal, then you shouldn’t be coaching,” Collins concluded.

Speaking of the NCAA Tournament, Selection Sunday is just four days away now and you can check out BetQL for picks, moneylines, over/unders, and more, for every game, every day.

Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News NowBanks, the author of “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGNSports IllustratedChicago Tribune and SB Nation. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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