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updated: 4/2/2013 7:49 PM

Collins a good fit to take over at NU

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  • Chris Collins, Northwestern's new basketball coach, responds to a question at Tuesday morning's news conference.

    Chris Collins, Northwestern's new basketball coach, responds to a question at Tuesday morning's news conference.
    Associated Press


Northwestern's men's basketball program picked up its first victory Tuesday when Chris Collins was formally introduced as the 24th coach in school history.

As expected, Collins won the news conference, hands down.

The 38-year-old former Glenbrook North star, who played his college ball at Duke, hit all the right notes in front of about 100 spectators in Welsh-Ryan Arena.

He was emotional, tearing up at the first mention of his family -- including his dad, Doug -- all of whom were seated in the front row. He was awed by the moment. ("This is home for me. It's a dream come true.")

He was optimistic. ("We're gonna build a winner.") He showed his dedication to the program. ("I'm in it for the long haul.")

And, despite quite the basketball pedigree of a lifetime spent with a father who was a star player and coach and sitting beside Mike Krzyzewski for 13 years at Duke, he was determined to set his own course. ("I'm my own guy, and I plan to blaze my own trail.")

What more could a program that has yet to qualify for the NCAA Tournament ask for in a new coach?

To some, that answer might be some head-coaching experience. Not an issue for Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips.

"Not at all, and here's why: because this place has had a history of first-time coaches doing well," said Phillips, who rattled off the names of Pat Fitzgerald (football), Kelly Amonte Hiller (lacrosse), Pat Goss (golf) and a handful of other Wildcats coaches who succeeded without head-coaching experience.

"It's a fair question and something that you have to think about, but at the end of the day I think we all long and yearn for (bigger and better jobs).

"Chris has all the pedigree, but he doesn't have the box checked under head-coaching experience.

"But I think the timing and the institution and the history of how successful our coaches have been here gives it as good of a chance to have success as anything."

Doug Collins, who got his first head-coaching job with the Bulls at 36, couldn't agree more.

"I think everybody always views Chris as this young guy who, wherever he's gone, just landed in the right spot," said the elder Collins, head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. "He's worked very, very hard to make these things happen for himself.

"I just know he's ready. He's ready to roll. He's been ready for a while."

Chris Collins, the spitting image of his father, said he plans on getting right to work recruiting, putting together his coaching staff, and visiting with students on campus to pump up a basketball program that's aiming high.

"It's not about making just one NCAA Tournament," he said. "We're going to build a winner. I'm confident."

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