Preview: Northwestern Wildcats

Chicago-area native Chris Collins will try to turn around a flagging Wildcats program. AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Northwestern Wildcats

2012-13: 13-19 (4-14)
In-conference offense: 0.93 points per possession (10th)
In-conference defense: 1.11 points per possession (12th)

There is a dead branch on the Phog Allen coaching tree that shows how close Northwestern once came to attaining blue-blood status. Allen played for Dr. James Naismith himself at Kansas, and he had four prominent assistants go on to long coaching careers: Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Ralph Miller and Dutch Lonborg. Lonborg coached 23 seasons in Evanston, the final one in 1950, and he remains atop the school leaderboard in career wins. He never got the Wildcats into the then-fledgling NCAA tournament, though, and neither have any of the 11 men who succeeded him.

The latest was Bill Carmody, who was fired after falling under .500 in his 13th season at the helm. Only Lonborg won more games for the Wildcats than Carmody, who nevertheless finished 18 games under .500 during his term and failed to erase the first statement everyone makes about the program. That, of course, is that Northwestern remains the most prominent Division I program to have never earned a berth in the NCAA tournament.

To replace Carmody, Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips made what might have been the biggest grab of the offseason coaching bazaar by hiring longtime Mike Krzyzewski assistant Chris Collins and handing him what reportedly was a seven-year contract. The hire was widely lauded, not just by industry analysts, but by high-profile players Collins has coached over the years like Kobe Bryant, Grant Hill, J.J. Redick and Kyrie Irving. The mere mention of names like that in connection with Northwestern is an indication that a bright new era may be in the offing in Evanston.