Chris Collins leaves Duke basketball for Northwestern head coaching job
Duke associate head coach Chris Collins told Jon Scheyer ‘let’s do this’ on two occasions. Both times, Scheyer did it.
Moments like those are why Scheyer—who starred at Duke from 2006-2010—is so sure that Collins will succeed in his first head coaching gig. Collins has been named the head coach at Northwestern, though he will stay at Duke for the rest of the season.
Collins, a player at Duke from 1992-1996 and assistant coach since 2000, was the first Duke coach to recruit Scheyer. Both are natives of the Chicago suburb Northbrook, Ill. and attended Glenbrook North. When Collins first reaching out to Scheyer when he was a sophomore at Glenbrook, the pair bonded over playing the same teams in high school as Scheyer was on his way to breaking nearly all of the high school records that Collins set.
Then as a junior, Scheyer made his unofficial visit to Duke, and Collins made his final pitch.
“Towards the end he pulled me aside and said, ‘If you want to do this, let’s do this. Let’s get it done,’” Scheyer said. “It was funny because I was like, ‘Yeah, what am I waiting for? Let’s do this.’”
Shortly after, Scheyer pledged his allegiance to the Blue Devils.
Collins’ final challenge to Scheyer was during the 2010 NCAA Tournament. No. 1-seeded Duke advanced to the Sweet 16 despite a second-round performance in which Scheyer went 1-for-11 from the field, missing his final eight shots of the game.
His funk continued into the Sweet 16 against Purdue, going into halftime having missed all six of his field goal attempts as the Blue Devils led the fourth-seeded Boilermakers by just one point.
“At halftime he approached me and said, ‘Are we going to do this or are we going to do this?’” Scheyer said. “I was unsettled and trying to force it too much. He calmed me down, but at the same time he got me angry. I’m best when I play angry.”
An angry Scheyer scored 16 points in the second half, leading Duke to a 13-point victory.
Scheyer averaged 19.3 points per game in the final three games of the NCAA Tournament as Duke won its fourth national championship.
He is not the only Blue Devil to have been wooed by Collins, though the two are especially close because they share so much in common: hometown, high school, college and even accolades—both recipients of the Illinois Mr. Basketball award. But Collins has consistently displayed an ability to recruit well within the Chicago area, where Northwestern is located in nearby Evanston. Collins was also the lead recruiter for Chicago-native Sean Dockery, who played at Duke from 2002-2006.
“Nobody has recruited Chicago better than he has,” Scheyer said.
Senior Mason Plumlee said Collins was the first Duke coach to recruit him, adding that he heard the news that Collins accepted the Northwestern job Wednesday afternoon from teammate Josh Hairston.
"I can't possibly thank Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski and Duke University enough for preparing me for this day," Collins said in a press release Wednesday night. "Northwestern University is a special place that strives for excellence in every regard, and our program will be no different."
Speaking Wednesday afternoon, before the official announcement, Krzyzewski had high praise for his former player and assistant. Collins also joined Krzyzewski as an assistant coach on the USA Olympic basketball teams in 2008 and 2012 that both won gold medals.
“He’s been terrific—not good,” Krzyzewski said. “He’s got a great basketball mind.”
Scheyer echoed that sentiment, noting that even though he is playing professional basketball in Spain, he still speaks with Collins at least every other day.
Scheyer also remembered that there is one time when Collins had the last laugh—holding onto his high school-record 54 points in a game, though it was a close call. With Krzyzewski and Collins in attendance for one of Scheyer’s high school games, Glenbrook North trailed by 13 points with 1:24 left. Scheyer proceeded to score 21 in the next 75 seconds, giving him 52 for the game and bringing his team within two.
But with nine seconds left, Scheyer made one last play to try and complete the comeback, only to foul out with nine seconds remaining, leaving him two points short of Collins’ record.
“I was going to break his record in front of him,” Scheyer said. “[It was] a terrible foul call.”