O'Donnell: Is Northwestern's Collins on the threshold of falling in with the haunted?
THERE'S ALWAYS BEEN A FEELING the basketball life of Doug Collins was haunted.
When his on-court existence looked like Easy Street -- en route to Munich, Philadelphia, Michael Jordan -- there always seemed to be danger at the door.
Maybe it had to do with the fact a boyhood neighbor in downstate Benton was John Malkovich. That'd be enough for odd channelings of the spirits, wouldn't it?
But there never was a thought that the wicked ghosts of the father would GPS the son.
That son would be Chris Collins. In 2013, he was the greatest marquee "get" -- coach or player -- in the history of Northwestern basketball.
Two years ago, Collins got the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament for the first time. All was in timely ascent. He was rewarded with an eight-year contract extension, through the 2024-25 season, worth an estimated $24 million.
Late Wednesday night at the United Center, after his latest edition of 'Cats completed a second straight land-mined season at 13-19, the ex-Bulls ball boy looked like the most beaten-down 44-year-old coach on Planet Basketball.
He was gracious and typically amiable after a 74-69 loss to Illinois in OT as the bottom seed in the Big Ten Tournament. He said institutionally correct things.
Collins gently skirted the fact that the elitist poseurs who gate-keep NU greatly helped torpedo his season by abruptly denying the admission of point guard Jordan Lathon long after a suitable replacement would be recruitable.
He also came across as an exhausted basketball mind desperately in need of ample time and cocoon to reboot.
A friend might suggest Chris Collins tries to please too many people, allows too many stale voices to chirp in his ear.
Most importantly, are his career goals consistent with Northwestern realities?
At Duke, he was the good line officer who waited -- and waited and waited -- for the hopelessly self-absorbed Mike Krzyzewski to set a retirement date.
Among other things, that unfortunate career management induced Collins to pass on an open-net shot at becoming the head coach at Indiana in 2008 when Kelvin Sampson proved to be Kelvin Sampson. It's extremely unlikely IU administrators would leave their head men's basketball coach twisting in the wind over a Jordan Lathon.
By 2013, something had to give and it wasn't going to be Krzyzewski. Northwestern swooped in with promises of new horizons, impressive resources and unwavering support and Collins was hooked.
He remains hooked -- like a catfish down by the fishin' hole. At $3 million per-year. Without a properly constructed roster during a second consecutive season of burned purple and vaporized momentum.
His wonder years on The Enchanted Lakefront are over.
The prime of his coaching career is inexorably on the clock.
And has the haunting just begun?
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