INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Collins took the floor Thursday with the Duke players at practice, just like he has for the past 13 years. He knows, though, that those days soon will end. As soon as the Blue Devils’ season is complete, Collins will head to Chicago and start his head coaching career at Northwestern.
“I told our seniors, Ryan (Kelly) and Seth (Curry) and Mason (Plumlee), it’s my senior year too,” Collins said. “It’s my last run. That’s the way I’m viewing it. I’m all in with this, and they know that and I’m excited to see what we can do the rest of the tournament.”
Collins was the first Duke coach to see Plumlee play in high school, and he was the main recruiter for the Duke big man.
“He’s a presence guy,” Plumlee said of Collins. “When he enters the room, he’s not going to be quiet and go to the corner. You know he’s there. He’s got a great personality. He can connect with people.”
During his 13-year stint as a Duke assistant, Collins landed several major recruits, and, arguably, none was as significant as his first signee, J.J. Redick. The sharpshooter from Roanoke, Va., was one of two national players of the year directly under Collins’ tutelage. The other was Jay Williams.
Collins has spent nearly half his life in Durham – 17 years as a player and coach. He said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was “like a father to me,” and also helped him win two gold medals in Beijing and London.
“Everything I have in this business is because of making the decision to play for him when I was in high school,” Collins said. “Being able to coach in the Olympics and win national championships and go to Final Fours, I’m forever grateful for everything that Duke has meant to me and that will never go away.”
The job at Northwestern gives Collins the opportunity to return home, to the area he starred in before coming to Duke. That, and the Wildcats’ place in the Big 10 conference, made the match a perfect fit.
“It was everything that I was looking for,” Collins said. “Great school, great area, great conference, an opportunity to build a program. So I was very excited about that opportunity.”
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley