The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for Northwestern. Over the next several weeks, we will celebrate the conference championships, noteworthy wins and significant milestones that the Wildcats accumulated during the past year. Be sure to follow along at NUsports.com as we revisit the top 20 moments.
In need of a win to snap a four-match skid and keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, Northwestern hosted the Michigan Wolverines, a team receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll, at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday, Nov. 16. The Wildcats rose to the challenge and responded by turning back U-M, which came to town with its own five-match winning streak, in thrilling fashion.
The 'Cats fell behind, 18-12, in the first set before ripping off a 9-3 rally to knot the score at 21 points apiece. The Wolverines eventually captured that first frame, 25-22, but that was the last time they would be victorious on this special evening. Northwestern stormed back to claim a pair of two-point wins in both the second and third sets before putting Michigan down for good with an emphatic 25-18 triumph in the fourth.
Stephanie Holthus turned in not only the best individual performance of the season, but arguably the top effort of her storied career to this point. The Burlington, Ill., native buried a career-high 28 kills and added 19 digs, four blocks and a pair of assists. She tallied 32 points in the four-set triumph and attacked at a clip of .404 during the match. Holthus was named Co-Big Ten Player of the Week on Nov. 19 in recognition of her superior effort.
Yewande Akanbi was also in double figures offensively for Northwestern with 12 kills. Middle blockers Savannah Paffen and Katie Dutchman sent back a match-high six blocks apiece, while setter Madalyn Shalter added 46 assists and 17 digs in victory. Northwestern's back row received outstanding efforts from Julie Chin, Abbie Kraus and Monica McGreal who tallied 17, 11 and eight digs, respectively.
Northwestern fell just short of its goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament. After dropping another 3-1 decision the following evening at Illinois, Michigan reeled off six wins in a row as they made their way to the national semifinals in Louisville where they lost to Texas in five. The Longhorns would then go on to defeat Oregon to win the 2012 national championship.
|Michigan Match Highlights|
Holthus' powerful performance against the Wolverines was one of many outstanding performances that she turned in for the Wildcats during her third season in Evanston. The outside hitter was named All-Big Ten and All-Mideast Region by the aforementioned AVCA. On Dec. 12, Holthus was named to the All-America Team. She recorded 487 kills in 2012, which tied her for fifth all-time in a single season at NU. Holthus notched at least 20 kills 10 times and currently ranks 10th on the school's all-time list with 1,294 terminations. She is the fourth student-athlete in program history to receive All-America recognition.
"[Holthus] is a great example of what it means to be a student-athlete at Northwestern," said NU head coach Keylor Chan. "She has put a great deal of time and effort to improve her volleyball every year and is consistently committed to success."
The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for Northwestern. Over the next few weeks, we will celebrate the conference championships, noteworthy wins and significant milestones the Wildcats accumulated during the past year. Be sure to follow along at NUSports.com as we re-isit the top 20 moments.
For the second straight day to open Northwestern's countdown of the Top 20 Moments of the 2012-13 athletic year, the Wildcats are celebrating a milestone reached by one of its 19 head coaches -- and one that came in some pretty unusual circumstances.
As the two-time defending NCAA champion Northwestern women's lacrosse team prepared to open its 2013 home season, one of the fiercest snowstorms of the winter bore down on Evanston and dumped more than seven inches of snow on Lakeside Field, just 24 hours before the Wildcats were to take the field against Boston College. But thanks to a round-the-clock snow-clearing effort by the Northwestern facilities staff, the game went on as scheduled and ended in a 17-10 Wildcats win that represented the 200th victory in the legendary coaching career of Kelly Amonte Hiller.
After the game, Amonte Hiller was asked if it was fitting that her milestone win came with a four-foot high pile of snow ringing Lakeside Field, with temperatures that had fallen below freezing shortly after opening draw.
"That's why I love this place," Amonte Hiller said with a smile. "You have to be tough to play here. You have to be strong, mentally and physically."
The five-time national coach of the year and seven-time NCAA champion coach needed only 231 games to reach the 200-career victory plateau, and by season's end had run her career record to 215-33 for a winning percentage of .867 -- best among active coaches and second all-time in Division I women's lacrosse.
The 2012-13 academic year was a memorable one for Northwestern. Over the next few weeks, we will celebrate the conference championships, noteworthy wins and significant milestones the Wildcats accumulated during the past year. Today, we begin with Moment No. 20, which features the Northwestern women's soccer team. Be sure to follow along at NUSports.com as we re-visit the top 20 moments.
Northwestern head women's soccer coach Michael Moynihan ended his first season with the Wildcats with a significant milestone. All it took was one goal, but Niki Sebo's score in the 19th minute during the 2012 season finale at Michigan State gave head coach Michael Moynihan his 200th career victory. The MSU victory also was a milestone for assistant coach David Nikolic, who has coached alongside Moynihan for 16 seasons.
"It was a great win to end the season," Moynihan said following the Michigan State victory. "We ended the season with all of our seniors on the field and I thought it was a nice tribute to them and the leadership that they've shown and the progress that we've made this season; it all just kind of came together. I feel like we've come a long way and it's nice to get this little three game winning streak in the Big Ten to show something for our efforts. I thought getting another shutout on the road was fantastic. Our defense really stepped up as the season went on and got on the same page and we became more cohesive as a group. (Goalkeeper) Anna (Cassell) had a couple of really strong games here down the stretch. There are a lot of things to build on and again it was a great way to end the season and build towards the future."
The Wildcats saw significant improvement during the 2012 campaign and ended the season with three-straight Big Ten victories, including a down-to-the-wire 2-1 win at Illinois, a 1-0 shutout against Iowa on Senior Day and the shutout victory against the Spartans. Moynihan and his staff guided the 'Cats to a five-win improvement from the 2011 season while facing a tough schedule that included eight games against squads that qualified for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's SoccerKatie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. The Northwestern women's soccer team is constantly giving back to the community and Katie's second entry details a great service event put on by the seniors from the 2012 women's soccer team.
PHOTOS: 2013 Charity Dodgeball Tournament
Colorful outfits, the sound of competition-crazed players, and balls whizzing through the air could only mean one thing: a dodgeball tournament, and more importantly, one put on by the women's soccer team. On a hot May day, more than 100 people packed into Patten Gym to participate in a tournament organized, run and inspired by our senior class. I can't begin to say how much Jess Rubin, Meredith Finsand and Bri Westlund have meant to me as teammates in the past two years, but in the past few weeks I've seen another, even better side of them.
They built this tournament from the ground up, and put a great cause at the center of it. The Lurie Children's Hospital is a place near and dear to NU women's soccer because of the incredible care they have given to our friend Hallie Munro
, so it was only natural that the proceeds of this tournament would benefit their organization. With each team paying an entrance fee and many local businesses donating food for players, our seniors, and team, were able to raise $3,000 for a place that we know does good work for children with unimaginable circumstances; and all while having a great time!
Observing the three dodgeball courts that lined Patten Gym was truly a sight to see, and many of us stuck around to watch and enjoy the fun atmosphere long after our refereeing shifts ended. Teams, many of which consisted of other NU student-athletes, sprinted to lines, performed trick plays and generally made the most of the chance to participate in a game outside of our normal practice schedules. Working alongside the seniors that had made all of this happen was an honor, and I couldn't help but smile at the thought of that money going to a place where daily, kids can have hope of a second chance because of the world-class care they receive.
Something else that stuck with me was from an email Coach Moynihan sent to our team after some of us volunteered at Nettelhorst Elementary playing soccer and telling students about our experience as NU student-athletes
. He pointed out that we were showing kids another avenue, one where you can excel at a sport and also love to do creative writing or use a talent you have to achieve something else, like being the first in your family to attend college. In a way, we were doing the same with the dodgeball tournament. Showing outsiders and ourselves that college athletes aren't just performers on the field and in the classroom, but also conscientious members of the community. In a packed gym filled with the sounds of our friends simply having a good time, our team, with the help of our senior class, learned that fun and service can collide in incredible ways.
Coach Neely captured some great moments from the dodgeball tournament so make sure you check out the photo gallery
. A big thanks to everyone who participated and helped to make the day memorable!
By Katie Landgrebe - Northwestern Women's Soccer
Katie Landgrebe is a sophomore on the Northwestern women's soccer team and the journalism major will give fans an inside look into the program with her blogs. Katie's first entry takes a look back at the Wildcats' spring soccer season that just wrapped up in early May.
The end of spring season is always a little bittersweet. We're closing the book on some fun contests with regional rivals but also stepping into our offseason preparation for our main Big Ten season in the fall. I personally love those summer months, preparing my body to tackle preseason, setting goals for what we will accomplish in the fall and anticipating the memories we will make as we take the field on Chicago Friday nights. That said, spring season is a great time to put to work all of the things we focus on in the winter offseason and is always a time of growth for our team. This spring season was no exception.
Our first weekend back from spring break we played two games against University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Valparaiso and brought home a win and a tie. It was an uncharacteristically warm Saturday in April and playing on Lakeside Field for the first time in six months was awesome. (And also reminded us why we work so hard on fitness in the fall; that 120x76 yard field can really take it out of you.) Against Loyola we played some of the best possession soccer that I've ever seen out of our team and picked up a tie. In a matchup with our Big Ten rival Wisconsin, we brought home a 1-0 win and generated many promising attacks, which has been the focus of much of our training in the past few months.
The wins and ties this spring, understandably, make up many of the highlights of the past month. Despite that, I think that we collected some of our best learning in the losses we've had, displaying one of the reasons I believe spring season is so integral to collegiate programs: that because these games don't matter for conference wins and losses, we can try new things and work on our weaknesses in a highly competitive game environment without too much pressure. Our team did just that, learning against Marquette that our team organization against a great possession team needs to be better. We collected one of our hardest lessons late in the spring season against DePaul when we were out-worked and didn't compete with a full team effort.
The DePaul loss was a hard one to stomach and is still a fresh wound for many of us, but I think it presents one of the greatest opportunities for growth that our team has ever received. After the game we talked about how disappointing it is to have great trainings and see real progress, then not have it translate in a game situation. We talked about perseverance and focus, communication and attitude. Every team, at every level, works to put together a complete performance, harmonizing all of the technical and mental aspects of the game, each time they step on the field. Our team talked about how we need to expect that out of ourselves every single time we take the field too, that anything less is not an acceptable way to represent the Northwestern name or ourselves. Again, a bittersweet way to end the spring, but one that presents hope for even more growth in the months to come and holds a quiet current of expectation for how it will all come together in the fall.
For me, a lot of things came together this spring season soccer-wise, and it ended up being one of the periods when I've most enjoyed playing at Northwestern. I learned about how important it is to identify areas of weakness in your play and then what it looks like to put in time and thought that is focused on combating those problems. I've begun to have this thought process that revolves around rejecting doing things half-heartedly and focuses on committing to things fully and doing them out of passion and love. My relationship with soccer has definitely not always been this way, and this spring was one of the first times in college that I have tackled things on the soccer field out of a genuine desire to fulfill what I've begun to see as a very worthy commitment in my life. Not that I've viewed soccer as some sort of side-job in the past year, but I've become much more aware that this is an opportunity I don't want to see pass by without knowing that I did all I could to get better at soccer, serve my teammates and have fun playing. Like most things, this way of thinking is a work in progress, imperfect and not always acted out, but it's been pretty transformative in how I approach playing soccer (and living life!).
Northwestern junior field hockey member Nikki
Parsley wraps up her experience playing for the United States at the Four
Nations Tournament in New Zealand.
Since my last game in
New Zealand, I have spent over 24 hours traveling, taken three flights, and
slept only eight hours in the last two nights combined. The good news is:
I am finally home in Evanston.
But, before I said my
final farewell to Kiwiland and since my last blog, we wrapped up the second
Four Nations tournament. During our seventh game of the trip we played
Argentina again. The match ended in a 1-1 draw, which qualified us for the
bronze medal game against Korea. Previously we had beaten them 2-1 and lost 4-1.
In my opinion, this
was the most exciting game of the tournament for us. Not only did we end up
winning 1-0, but we were finally able to execute the majority of our pregame
plan. Throughout the eight games, we spent countless hours talking about
adjustments we needed to make on and off the field in order to produce more
wins. It was amazing to see all of the time spent watching film and
studying our opponent's pay off, because hard work does not always guarantee
success. However, throughout each game we made significant improvements, and by
the end of the tour we finished better than we started.
Over the last few
days, I have had a lot of time to talk with others and privately reminisce on
my first tour with the National team. I have determined that even if I had time
to write a book, I could not properly articulate the uniqueness of my trip.
This is most likely due to the wide array of emotions I felt on a daily, and
sometimes hourly basis. I have never experienced so many highs and lows in such
a short amount of time. Additionally, having
the chance to turn one of my lifelong dreams (i.e. competing for my country)
into reality is still a bit surreal.
like other tours I have went on, it has been somewhat difficult to make the
transition back into "regular" life. Even though I am unbelievably excited to
be home and surrounded by my best friends and teammates again, I often find
myself sidetracked by thoughts of the trip. Because this tour has the
potential to greatly impact my future, it is easy to overanalyze the
experience. Consequently, my current challenge is to put my blinders on and
move full speed ahead, trusting that I left everything on the field in New
"I don't mean to say that I have
already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I
press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed
me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on
this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,
I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly
prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us." -Philippians 3:
Northwestern junior Nikki Parsley is
currently competing for Team USA at the Four Nations Tournament in New Zealand.
As her journey winds to a close, she checks in with another update.
On the 22nd
day of my trip "I Love It" by Icona Pop routinely flooded my ears. As the alarm
sounded, I half consciously rolled out of bed, and noted that my legs ached,
but only dully. This was progress,
because over the past few days my body had pleaded, on more than one occasion,
that I stop the madness.
While I have
certainly pushed myself physically throughout my field hockey career at
Northwestern, playing at the international level requires a new level of
fitness entirely. I have observed throughout the tournament that all of the top
players in the world share something special in common: they are comfortable
being uncomfortable. Even when they walk off the pitch after a 70-minute match,
they never show signs of discomfort. While I realize that these women are all
in unbelievable shape, I think that this is more of a mental skill than
physical ability. This is an attitude that I desire to possess. In fact, this
is a mentality I must possess to have success at this level. I am learning that
the internal drive to push boundaries is one of the most powerful tools I can
add to my arsenal.
As I spent a significant amount of reflecting on this
newfound understanding, I was reminded of a scene from "A League of Their Own."
As cheesy as recalling this may be, it is the best way I can convey my
Jimmy Dugan: Dottie, if you want to go back to
Oregon and make a hundred babies, great, I'm in no position to tell anyone how
to live. But sneaking out like this, quitting, you'll regret it for the rest of
your life. Baseball is what gets inside you. It's
what lights you up, you can't deny that.
Dottie Hinson: It just got too hard.
Jimmy Dugan: It's
supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what
makes it great.
Calling international field hockey challenging is an
understatement. But, Jimmy Dugan said it precisely: the hard is what makes it
great. The hard pushes me to get up and fight through a mistake I have made too
many times. The hard challenges me to make one more recovery sprint at the end
of game eight. The hard is what fuels my desire to relentlessly chase the
people at the top of the game.
I am convinced that I have yet to fully comprehend all that
this trip has set in motion. I know that I am on the verge of something. Is it
success or failure? This I do not know, but of something else I am certain - "I
am ready to risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is
wise, and dream more than others think is practical." This trip has reaffirmed
my desire to make the national team and eventually represent my country at the
Olympics. I am unbelievably thankful for this tour, because I now have a better
understanding of what it takes to get where I want to go.
from New Zealand!
Days after my first cap, as I try to
recount my experience it is unbelievably difficult to capture the thoughts,
feelings, and emotions I felt. Words will never do justice this experience.
On April 10,
2013 at 5:30 p.m., I stepped onto a field hockey pitch in New Zealand wearing a
red, white, and blue jersey. While the scene felt vaguely familiar, there was
an unprecedented excitement coursing through my body. Unlike any other game I
had previously competed in, the stakes were much higher, the players on the
field were some of the top in the world, and I got to represent my country at
the highest level possible. This benchmarked a point in my career I had been
working towards for as long as I can remember.
As I stood
at the center of the field anticipating the starting whistle, I began to
understand the magnitude of the game. Not only was this my first cap, but we
also were playing the second-ranked team in the world, and one of our biggest
rivals, Argentina. In a brief moment it hit me that I was standing on the same
turf as the players I frequently searched on Google and YouTube.
It was then
that I realized my mentality had to change. These people were no longer
abstract players running around on a computer screen, but opponents I was
tasked with defending and attacking. A few moments later the whistle sounded
and players took off in separate directions across the field. For the next 70
minutes I sprinted around and barely had time to catch a breath. The pace of
the game was faster than any speed I had ever played at before, which demanded
quicker reactions. Although I was physically tired, I was more mentally
exhausted at the end of the game. I
learned quickly that playing at this level means you have to be mentally
checked in at all times.
This game was
the most exhilarating, yet exhausting match I had ever been apart of. Although
we lost 3-0, and I realized that I have room to improve my physical and mental
skill sets, I absolutely loved every second of playing at the international
level. I have always dreamt of representing my country on the national team,
but I had no idea that it would be this amazing.
I have never been more excited to play field hockey.
trip has sparked a new excitement and love for the game, I have also been
absorbing as much information as possible. Being surrounded by six Olympians
and an experienced coaching staff is invaluable. One of my favorite parts of
the tour has been listening and learning from their experiences and advice. Needless
to say, I have been busy scribbling down lots of notes that I will carry with
me wherever I go.
first Four Nations tournament coming to a close, and the next series about to
start in a few hours, I am excited to take the field again. We open with Korea at 5 p.m. Wednesday (12:00
a.m. Central Time).
Reggie Hearn must have anticipated the crowd's reaction to
his bold declaration on his eating habits growing up in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Hearn, who has been fearless in adversity on the basketball court, finishing
last season as the leading scorer on the Wildcats' men's basketball team,
brought the same bold and fearless demeanor at River Trails Middle School when
he challenged his audience to eat right, get enough sleep and stay active.
"I'm like a lot of you, guys. My mom always taught me to eat
Brussels sprouts and all those green vegetables," Hearn declared. The crowd
erupted, "Awwww! Brussels sprouts!"
Unabashed by the uproar, Hearn continued to press his case
for a healthy lifestyle to the sixth, seventh and eighth graders who have
packed the school gym in suburban Mt. Prospect on Friday, April 12. "Yeah! I
was like, "Uh! Brussels sprouts!" He said he reacted the same way when his mom
used to feed him veggies but admitted "those green vegetables really helped me.
I've been eating right and that helped me become the player that I am today."
His transformation from a walk-on his freshman year to
starter and scholarship player his junior year, Hearn acknowledged his success
as a collective effort. "There are a lot of people who remind me to eat right.
We have a nutritionist at Northwestern who is helping me out, reminding me to
eat my vegetables, to eat breakfast. Sometimes I just want to eat ice cream,
but that's not good for me as an athlete." Hearn also reminded the kids to get
enough sleep as part of their health regimen. "That's going to help you stay
healthy in the long run."
Hearn's visit kicked off a morning assembly at the suburban
middle school where students and teachers danced, hula-hooped, jumped rope,
played volleyball and basketball, ate fresh green salads and participated in
games geared towards creating awareness to a healthy lifestyle. It was a day
dedicated to Fuel Up to Play 60, a nationwide program sponsored by the National
Dairy Council and the National Football League to help prevent childhood
obesity, encouraging participants to make healthy food choices, to stay active
and exercise for at least 60 minutes a day.
Hearn's bubbly personality won over his audience and by the
time he announced, "I think I'm sticking around for a while, so let's fuel up
to play 60," most kids, both boys and girls have milled around him, jumping to
high-five the Wildcats' recipient of the Big Ten's Sportsmanship Award for
2012-13, and asking him questions mostly about how tall he was and who his
favorite NBA player was. Hearn's 6-foot-4-inch,
210-pound frame was all the middle school students needed as proof that eating
vegetables must really work.
From the general assembly, the students broke up in smaller
stations in various classrooms, which Hearn each visited. He gave them a glimpse of how much he enjoyed
his fruits and vegetables at the school cafeteria where he munched on chopped
broccoli, spinach, lettuce, apples, tomatoes and onions as students stood in
line with pens and papers asking for his autograph. The nutritionist sensed his magical effect on
the kids. "Ask them to eat butternut squash," she whispered while handing him a
cup of chopped salad. Hearn obliged to
the nutritionist's request, at which point he turned to his captive audience,
"eat butternut squash and I'll give you my autograph." All the kids were undeterred by the trade-off
challenge of butternut-squash-for-Reggie Hearn-autograph. No one left the line.
All morning at RTMS, Hearn not only declared, "I'm excited
to be here," but showed it in everything he did with the kids. He sashayed on
the dance floor, arms up in the air as he made his way into the music room
where students and teachers danced to the beat of Katy Perry's "California
Gurls." There were giggles all around,
energizing the room even more.
Hearn was the second Northwestern Wildcat student-athlete to
grace Fuel Up to Play 60 at River Trails. Former basketball standout John
Shurna helped kick-off the school's inaugural program last year. School
principal Keir Rogers quipped during his introduction of Hearn, "I like
Rogers lauded Hearn's accomplishments as a walk-on. "I don't
know him personally but he must have resolute toughness because he eventually
earned a scholarship. Most student-athletes are recruited and offered
scholarships but this student-athlete walked on, meaning he tried out for the
team, which is not easy to do in the Big Ten."
Rogers, himself a former basketball player, urged the
students to talk to Hearn. "Go ahead, ask him questions, ask him about being a
student-athlete because it's very important that you look up to people like
Reggie and say, 'You know what, I aspire to do something great like what he's
doing right now.' He's in school, he's doing something beyond basketball."
Hearn's sprouts have truly blossomed on and off
the basketball court.
NUsports.com Special Contributor Skip Myslenski was on
hand Tuesday as new Northwestern head men's basketball coach Chris Collins was
introduced to the media.
The father, as a
player, had performed always with a fire burning in his belly, and it remained
there still even after he retired and was doing little more than facing off
against his young son in their family's driveway. He would roughly jostle the
boy there in their games of one-on-one, he would mercilessly drill the boy
there in their games of H-O-R-S-E, and never, ever, would he concede and let
the boy win.
supposed to let me win," the boy would whine after many of those games.
instinct as a parent is to protect your son," the father would once say,
thinking back on those moments. "But life's not that way. You get bumped. You
fall down. And the measure of a man is how you handle hurdles in life."
The boy, even
then, was undaunted by life's many hurdles and so he stayed after his dad,
stayed after him ardently and finally beat him when he was a blossoming 14
years-old. "I was trying to hold him. But my (once injured) leg (which ended
his career) wouldn't go," the father, Doug Collins, would remember of that
"It was fierce,"
remembered the boy, new 'Cat basketball coach Chris Collins. "He wasn't about
to give over the reins. There were some elbows thrown. It was pretty ugly. It
was a great moment. He was pretty mad. . . But I'm glad (he raised me that
way). I think that just made me real competitive as a young kid, and ever since
then I've loved challenges. Some people have said, 'He can't do this.' 'He's
too small.' 'He's too slow.' 'He can't really jump.' I look at all those things
as challenges, but I've always been pretty confident in my own abilities. Not
to the point of being cocky. But I've always believed in my ability to do
things. I just try to go out and not prove people wrong. But to show people I
can do it."
were offered up over a decade ago, back when Chris Collins was a callow
freshman guard at Duke. Yet they aptly explicate the foundation of the 38-year
old man who was officially introduced as Bill Carmody's successor on Tuesday at
a press conference at Welsh-Ryan Arena. "The guys will find out, it's going to
be tough work," he said there at one point, testifying to that truth. "We're
going to get after it on the court. Anyone who knows my personality knows
that's who I've always been as a player and as a coach. We're going to have to
step up and compete. We're not going to back down."
there's a lot of work to be done," he more tellingly said at another point.
"I'm not afraid of that. I'm a competitor. When I went to Glenbrook North
(where he was named Illinois Mr. Basketball as a senior), they'd never done
anything in basketball. People wanted me to go to other high schools because
they didn't think I could win there. We started a culture there and it became
one of the best basketball programs on the North Shore and still is to this
day. Certainly when I went to Duke it was already established. But I had to go
through tough times there as well. My junior year, Coach K (Mike Krzyzewski)
got sick (and didn't coach the second half of the season) and we went from the
national championship game to last place in one year. Then my senior year, we
had a group of guys, we had to dig down and get the program going again.
"So I'm not
afraid of the work that needs to be done. I'm ultra-competitive. I'm passionate
about what I do. To me, in life, if you love doing something, you want people
to know about it. I know when I played, I was real energetic on the court, and
some people liked it and some people didn't. But I always wanted the world to
know I loved what I was doing. It's no different in coaching. I love coaching.
. .(and) we're going to build a winner. I'm confident. I'm excited. But I also
know it's going to take work. I'm not afraid of the work I'm going to have to
do to get this thing going. I'm in it for the long haul."
stretches beyond Duke, where he was an assistant for the last 13 years. That is
one thing to remember about Chris Collins, who also played in Finland, assisted
Nancy Lieberman in the WNBA and served on Krzyzewski's staff while the latter
guided the U.S. men to gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2010 World
Championships and the 2012 London Olympics. That explains why, on Tuesday, his
father would say, "He's ready. He's ready to roll. He's been ready for awhile.
If you guys had the chance to see him with the U.S. Olympic team and see him
coaching the pros, and the opportunities that Coach K has given him-- the thing
that Coach K has done along the way, not only has he developed these guys as
men, but as an assistant coach, you coach. You don't just recruit. You're on
the floor coaching. That sometimes gets lost in the, 'Well, he's never been a
head coach.' Well, nor was I when I came to Chicago at 36 (to take over as
coach of the Bulls). Somebody's got to give you your first opportunity. Dr.
(Jim) Phillips (the 'Cat AD) and Mr. (Morty) Shapiro (the school president)
have given him that opportunity, and I know he's going to run with it."
He is also a
realist. That is one more thing to remember about Chris Collins, who knows full
well that many have opined that the 'Cat facilities have hampered their quest
for basketball success. "My goal for Welsh-Ryan is let's make it a heck of a
home-court advantage," he would say Tuesday. "Let's get these seats packed.
Let's get everybody wearing purple. Let's see what it's like when you have
8,000-plus people in here going crazy for Northwestern basketball. . . If you
walk into Cameron Indoor Stadium (Duke's playpen), no one goes in there and
talks about how state-of-the-art it is. You talk about the atmosphere because
of the people that are in it, and the hunger of the crowd, and the excitement.
That's what we have to build. We have to put a product on the floor the people
are going to be excited about."
He is, in
addition, a pragmatist. This is one more thing to remember about Chris Collins,
who was taught by the master basketball minds of both his father and Mike Krzyzewski.
"One thing I believe about coaching is you should tailor what you do based on
your personnel," he would say Tuesday, echoing the approach of those mentors.
"I will create a system that I feel is going to benefit the pieces we have. I
don't believe in having a strict system you plug guys into year-after-year.
That's not how I coach. I want to showcase my star players, my best players. I
want to put them in a position to be successful, and then complement them with
the right pieces."
He is, finally,
just where he wants to be. That is the final thing to remember about Chris
Collins, whose emotions were palpable enough on Tuesday that his voice
sometimes cracked as he answered questions. "It's a dream come true," he said
at one of those moments. "To be in basketball my whole life and to now be
sitting up here as the head coach of Northwestern of the Big Ten, the highest
level of college basketball, it's pretty overwhelming-- in a good way. I just
think how hard I've worked to get here. It's a special day, for sure. . .
"You may all talk
about going to the NCAA Tournament and those things and, sure, that's going to
be a great milestone when we get there. But my goal is to build a top-notch
basketball program. I want to be here for a long, long time. It's exciting for
me to put my imprint on this university, on this school. It's an exciting day.
It's a good day. It's a good day. I'm really excited to be here and I can't
wait to get to work."
The father, on
Tuesday, is reminded of those games they played so long ago on the family's
driveway, and he smiles. "He's a competitor. He's been around a competitive
dad. He's always been in a competitive environment," Doug Collins then says. "I
never let him beat me in horse or any of those games. To me, that's false
praise and to me false praise sometimes is much more deadly than the truth.
Because kids start thinking this is the way it is when the truth is, 'You know
what, you've got a long way to go.' I mean, if Chris were afraid of challenges,
he never would have gone to Duke. Everyone said he would never play at Duke.
But he went down there, scored a thousand-something points, started on a Final
Four team, became the bridge with the other guys when Coach K got sick to get
them back to the NCAA Tournament, and then sat next to Coach K for 13 years. So
he's been around competitiveness, and that's what this is about."
The son also
smiles when reminded of those games. "It made me the competitor I am," Chris
Collins then says. "He never let me win at anything. That was a lesson. So you
know when you win, you've earned it. So even though I didn't know it, and I was
crying a lot and was upset, it feels that much better when you win because you
know nothing was given to you."
And did those
games help prepare him for his new challenge here?
finally says. "I feel, I've been so fortunate my whole life to be around
basketball and great coaches and players, everything I've learned has prepared
me for this day. Now it's on me to take it and run with it."