Collins hire an anomaly among Big Ten coaching moves

Northwestern hiring of Duke assistant Chris Collins as the school’s new men’s basketball coach has created a buzz in college hoops circles. Many love his pedigree, youth and energy. Collins sizzles with potential. Do you smell it? Could the thirtysomething wunderkind lead the Wildcats out of the wilderness of basketball hopelessness and to their first NCAA tourney ever? Collins will be hailed a hoop savant if he does so.

But the hire is ripe with risk. The chief one: Collins’ lack of head coaching experience. But, hey, what does Northwestern have to lose? Nothing, really, so I say, “Why not take this gamble on Collins?”

Still, it’s very intriguing. The fresh-faced and wide-eyed Collins will cut his teeth against  the likes of Bo Ryan, Tom Izzo, Thad Matta and Tom Crean, among others. That’s quite a playground to learn on.

I went back over the past 20 or so seasons to see where each Big Ten coaching hire was working prior to being tabbed. And Collins is the only hire over that span who was plucked from the outside with no head coaching experience.

Coaches like Jerry Dunn at Penn State (1996-2001), Tom Izzo at Michigan State (1995-present), Steve Fisher at Michigan (1989-97), Mike Davis at Indiana (2000-2006) and Randy Ayers at Ohio State (1990-97) all lacked head coaching experience when they got their jobs. But all had a familiarity with their new post, having been promoted from within.

Collins may have grown up in Illinois and recruited Chicago, but he’ll be new to Northwestern and challenged to build his own way of doing things. And for the first time, too.

Stu Jackson was unique when he was tabbed at Wisconsin (1992-94). Sure, he had never been a college head coach, but he had been head coach of the New York Knicks (1989-90). Jackson was working in NBA personnel when the Badgers tabbed him. Stan Van Gundy (1994-95) was promoted to take over when Jackson when back to the NBA, but Van Gundy had been a head coach at two colleges prior to joining Jackson’s staff in Madison.

Brian Ellerbe at Michigan (1997-2001) is another unique case, being promoted from within but already having head coaching experience.

The bottom line: This Chris Collins hire at Northwestern is going to be fun to watch play out.

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SCHOOL COACHING HIRES (Name, tenure & previous position)
Illinois
  • John Groce, 2012-present: Ohio head coach
  • Bruce Weber, 2003-2012, Southern Illinois coach
  • Bill Self, 2000-2004, Tulsa head coach
  • Lon Kruger, 1996-2000, Florida head coach
Indiana
  • Tom Crean, 2008-present: Marquette head coach
  • Kelvin Sampson, 2006-08: Oklahoma head coach
  • Mike Davis, 2000-06: Indiana assistant
  • Bob Knight, 1971-2000: Army head coach
Iowa
  • Fran McCaffery, 2010-present, Siena head coach
  • Todd Lickliter, 2007-2010, Butler head coach
  • Steve Alford, 1999-2007, Missouri State head coach
  • Tom Davis, 1986-1999, Stanford head coach
Michigan
  • John Beilein, 2007-present: West Virginia head coach
  • Tommy Amaker, 2001-07: Seton Hall head coach
  • Brian Ellerbe, 1997-2001: Michigan assistant but had been head coach at Loyola (Md.).
  • Steve Fisher, 1989-97, Michigan assistant
Michigan State
  • Tom Izzo, 1995-present: Michigan State assistant
  • Jud Heathcote, 1976-1995: Montana head coach
Minnesota
  • Tubby Smith, 2007-2013: Kentucky head coach
  • Dan Monson, 1999-2007: Gonzaga head coach
  • Clem Haskins, 1986-1999, Western Kentucky head coach
Nebraska
  • Tim Miles, 2012-present: Colorado State head coach
  • Doc Sadler, 2006-2011, UTEP head coach
  • Barry Collier, 2000-2006, Butler head coach
  • Danny Nee, 1986-2000, Ohio head coach
Northwestern
  • Chris Collins, 2013-present: Duke assistant
  • Bill Carmody, 2000-2013: Princeton head coach
  • Kevin O’Neill, 1997-2000: Tennessee head coach
  • Ricky Byrdsong, 1993-97: Detroit head coach
  • Bill Foster, 1986-93: South Carolina head coach
Ohio State
  • Thad Matta, 2004-present: Xavier head coachJim O’Brien, 1997-2004: Boston College head coach
  • Randy Ayers, 1990-97: Ohio State assistant
  • Gary Williams, 1986-89: Boston College head coach
  • Eldon Miller, 1977-86: Western Michigan head coach
Penn State
  • Pat Chambers, 2011-present: Boston University head coach
  • Ed DeChellis, 2003-11: East Tennessee State head coach
  • Jerry Dunn, 1996-2001: Penn State assistant
  • Bruce Parkhill, 1983-95: William & Mary head coach
Purdue
  • Matt Painter, 2005-present: Southern Illinois head coach
  • Gene Keady, 1980-2005: Western Kentucky head coach
Wisconsin
  • Bo Ryan, 2001-present: Wisconsin-Milwaukee head coach
  • Dick Bennett, 1995-2001: Wisconsin-Green Bay head coach
  • Stan Van Gundy, 1994-95: Wisconsin assistant but had been head coach at UMass-Lowell and Castleton State
  • Stu Jackson, 1992-94: NBA director of basketball operations but had been New York Knicks head coach.
  • Steve Yoder, 1982-92: Ball State head coach

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About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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2 Comments

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Show Comments (2 Comments)
Reality check on 3/29/2013 @ 3:55pm EST Said:

Michigan wins big tonight I personally guarauntee that

Daniel Schuetz on 3/31/2013 @ 11:36am EST Said:

No way. Are you ignoring his father’s influence? Doug Collins is flipping brilliant. Recruiting is the big thing here. He’s been recruiting a long, long time.