Why Chris Collins Remains in Charge of Northwestern Basketball


If you heard Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins speak to the media, at the Big Ten Tournament last week, then you already knew he was coming back next season. You didn’t need the public confirmation/vote of confidence from NU A.D. Dr. Derrick Gragg, which came at the end of the workday on Monday, to realize that. Fresh off a 112-76 thumping (a game that was even worse than the score sounds) by Keegan Murray and the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, Collins conducted his postgame presser with the tone and manner of a man who was very confident in his job security, despite his season being over.

Meanwhile Collins’ alma mater, Duke, led by his mentor Mike Krzyzewski, are the overall favorites this March Madness. Keep that mind if you’re betting this month, like you would at gclub24hr. Like all public statements made by ADs, Gragg’s read like it was crafted by a corporate CEO. He discussed meeting with Collins first hand on Monday and stated: “As our Wildcats enter the offseason, we are committed to evaluating all aspects of the program on and off the court to ensure we are supporting this team with the foundation necessary to compete and win in the nation’s best college basketball conference. I have tasked Coach Collins with making necessary changes to build towards success in the 2022-23 campaign.”

Update: We discussed this topic during a guest appearance on WGN News Now

There are a couple different ways to read this. Maybe Gragg’s guy that he wants wasn’t available, so he’ll have to hold pat for another year. Remember, reports emerged, one year before Collins was hired by Dr. Jim Phillips that the then A.D. was looking to do so.

It took one more season until Phillips replaced Bill Carmody, who was not his guy, with somebody who was. We’ll see how Collins does this upcoming season, and unless you’re Gragg himself (or someone close to him on the inside) you just don’t really know the temperature of Collins’ seat right now. It was just obvious in Indianapolis that Collins already knew he wasn’t being dismissed.

Another thing we can be certain of is this- the past is the past; the 2017 NCAA Tournament appearance alone is not a valid argument for retaining Collins. Yes, he is the guy who did the thing, and yes that making the tournament for the first time in school history was indeed a historic moment.

However, if this program is actually serious about becoming legitimate, then why would anybody in Evanston be satisfied with just one appearance in March Madness? Following Northwestern’s exit from the Big Dance that year, in a second round loss to Gonzaga, Collins was then extended by Phillips through the 2024-25 season with a salary in excess of $3 million (according to the Chicago Tribune).

This placed Collins among the top 15 highest paid coaches in college basketball at the time, but his program has failed to come close to making the big dance again. The Wildcats haven’t finished above .500 since Collins received that lucrative extension. Their 15-16 record this past season was their best single season record since the tourney appearance. During that five-year stretch since NU’s historic season, the ‘Cats have gone 60-90 overall and a dismal 26-71 against Big Ten opposition. Is this the standard for Northwestern basketball? Well, at least for one more season it would appear so.

Big time college sports is a what have you done for me lately kind of business, and Collins has done next to nothing over the past half-decade.

This will be year #10 of the Chris Collins era of Northwestern basketball, and only one so far has resulted in a postseason appearance of any kind. Only two terms have seen the Wildcats finish above .500. They have become a regular fixture in the Wednesday night session of the Big Ten Tournament, and that is absolutely not where you want to be as a program

Looking toward next season, only one starter from this year’s group is a senior (Pete Nance), so most of the team should return. While Nance will indeed be missed, Northwestern is bringing in four-star center Luke Hunger, currently the Wildcats’ lone commitment in the 2022 class.

Obviously, and Northwestern basketball fans know this as well as anybody, the roster is going to change a lot between now and then, due to the transfer portal.

Collins has shown an ability to recruit, very well actually, especially by Northwestern basketball standards. However, player development has been a huge issue for his program and the W-L record re-affirms that.

Paul M. Banks is the owner/manager of The Bank (TheSportsBank.Net) and author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America,” as well as “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry.”

He has regularly appeared in WGNSports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune, and co-hosts the After Extra Time podcastFollow him on Twitter and Instagram

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