By Joe Henricksen

Two for NU as coaching search begins

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Lets get right to it.

The obvious, most talked about choice: Duke associate head coach Chris Collins.

The under-the-radar, darkhorse choice: La Salle head coach Dr. John Giannini.

Northwestern can go a number of different directions to replace Northwestern coach Bill Carmody, who was fired after 13 years as head coach on Saturday. These are just two of many names the Hoops Report has heard to be in the mix in Evanston, and for different reasons both Collins and Giannini are quality candidates for this job at this time.

Roughly one year ago when everyone wondered if Carmody would be back for the 2012-2013 season, the Hoops Report learned through close sources that Duke assistant Chris Collins would be Northwestern's primary target and that the former Glenbrook North star was very much interested -- if the job would have opened.

Now, 12 months later, not much has changed. Well, except the job is actually open following the firing of Carmody as head coach.

Collins is still expected to be a target and, according to a source with knowledge, the 13-year Duke assistant is still very much intrigued by the job.

"If Northwestern decides that Chris Collins is their guy and they are fair with him in the [negotiating] process, Chris would definitely be interested," the source told the Hoops Report.

According to Hoops Report sources, the son of former NBA all-star and current Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins welcomes the academic rigor at Northwestern and targeting a certain type of recruit that a school and program like Northwestern attracts.

Collins, who was named Duke's associate head coach in 2008, has familiarity with the Chicago area, both having starred at Glenbrook North and having recruited the area for the past decade while at Duke.

As a prep star at Glenbrook North, Collins was an Illinois Mr. Basketball winner and a McDonald's All-American who averaged 32 points a game as a senior before going on to play at Duke.

What grabbed my attention and intrigues me about Collins when talking to a few basketball people was the impressive experience he has had assisting Mike Krzyzewski and the USA Basketball team staff with on-court duties since 2006. He's been a part of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, 2010 FIBA World Championships and the 2012 London Olympics.

According to sources who know players on the U.S. National Team and spent time at a practice or two, Collins would often run parts of those practices. And he had the respect of the world's greatest players.

Collins would be a big name hire for a Northwestern program that has put its dollar and attention towards the football program. He would bring instant name recognition and, maybe most important, energy that will hopefully take the program from point A to point B.

Duke assistants have not exactly set the world on fire when they've taken control of their own programs. This is where Northwestern hopes Collins breaks the odds and is closer to a version of Mike Brey as opposed to Quin Snyder.

Names like Valpo's Bryce Drew, Bucknell's Dave Paulsen, South Dakota State's Scott Nagy and Northern Iowa's Ben Jacobson have been floated around by the media as possible options for Northwestern, but Dr. John Giannani's name hasn't but very likely will be, especially if the road to Collins closes.

Is there a better fit for a coach with a doctorate than Northwestern?

Giannini is a proven, experienced coach with a winning pedigree. He's won at the Division I level in what are very tough basketball jobs at both La Salle and Maine.

Last season he led the Explorers to 21 wins and a NIT berth, the program's first postseason appearance in over 20 years. He's followed that up with another 21-win season, an 11-5 record in the tough Atlantic 10 and a potential NCAA Tournament berth this year.

Under Giannini, La Salle's team APR (Academic Progress Rate) has improved each of his nine seasons with 100 percent of seniors recruited by the head coach having graduated.

While at Maine, Giannini compiled the best record of any coach in school history and recorded the program's only two 20-win seasons.

In addition, Giannini won big at the Division III level early in his career. He spent seven seasons at Rowan University in New Jersey, where he won a national championship in 1996. In his last four seasons at Rowan, Giannini went 110-12 with three Division III Final Four appearances.

Then there are the local ties. Giannini is a Chicago native who graduated from Fenwick High School and North Central College in Naperville. He served on Lou Henson's University of Illinois staff from 1987-89 as a graduate assistant. And while Giannini was on the Illinois staff in the late 1980s, current Northwestern athletic director Jim Phillips was as well as a basketball manager and student assistant.

Collins and Giannini are a couple of terrific choices for a Northwestern program aching to take that next step. There are lot of others as well. Here's hoping Northwestern can make that perfect hire.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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As always great thought-provoking stuff from the Hoops Report. Big hire for this program. It can't afford to take a step back.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 16, 2013 6:49 PM.

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