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Thursday, March 22, 2012
Illinois job interests Chris Collins

By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com

Duke associate head coach Chris Collins said Thursday he has aspirations to be a head coach and would be interested in any program's vacancy, including Illinois', if he found it to be the right fit.

Collins, 37, has been an assistant at Duke under coach Mike Krzyzewski since 2000 and also played for the Blue Devils.

"I definitely want to be a head coach," Collins said in a phone conversation. "For all of us who have been players and assistants for Coach K, he wouldn't want us around if we didn't have aspirations to have our own program. I'm looking for the right fit for me and my family, a place I can go and believe in that school and what they're trying to accomplish and have fun doing it.

"The thing is I love my coaching job at Duke. I love Coach K. I love my responsibilities. I went to school here. It's my family. I'm not itching to get out the door."

Collins, who grew up in the Chicago area, admitted Illinois would fall under "the right fit" category. He said he wasn't lobbying for the position and hadn't heard from anyone at Illinois, which fired Bruce Weber March 9.

The first choice of the Illini was reportedly VCU coach Shaka Smart, but he decided to stay put on Wednesday. Illinois is one of three Big Ten schools never to have a minority football or men's basketball head coach, and athletic director Mike Thomas has spoken in the past about balancing diversity with finding "a pool of strong candidates."

Collins is not a minority candidate, but he does boast a strong resume and has Illinois roots.

The son of Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins, he grew up in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Ill., and starred at Glenbrook North High School. Collins also has recruited the Chicago area for Duke.

"It's my home, it's in the Big Ten, there's talent in the state," Collins said of Illinois. "Of course, you have aspirations to be a head coach in an area you really love like Chicago, so of course there's going to be interest. I haven't talked to them."

Doug Collins said Saturday he believes his son is ready for an opportunity to have his own program.

"He's been raised in basketball since he was a little kid laying on the couch when I was coaching the Bulls, and throughout his life he's lived and died it," Doug Collins said before the 76ers' game with the Chicago Bulls. "He's been around the best people and throw me out of it, but I'm talking about the coaches and the people that he's been around. He's paid his dues; he's been a long-time assistant, and he's ready. He's ready for the right situation, and I don't know what that's going to be."

Doug Collins believes Illinois could be a good match for his son.

"He would be very interested in that as well," Doug said. "As I said before, Chris' roots, he played high school basketball here. He was Mr. Basketball. He's recruited in this area. He's come in and got some of the best players in Illinois to come to Duke. I just think he's going to be a terrific young coach. That sounds like maybe a proud daddy, and I am, but I've watched him. I've watched the responsibility Coach K has given him. I've watched him grow. I've watched him with the U.S. Olympic Basketball team down on one end coaching it like he was coaching at Duke and coaching pro players. He's articulate. He's good-looking like his mommy. And he's ready."

Collins has had experience recruiting the Chicago area. He helped Duke land Chicago-area recruits Sean Dockery and Jon Scheyer in past years and has been seen with Krzyzewski in Simeon's gym on Chicago's South Side recruiting Jabari Parker, the nation's top junior.

"He has an amazing basketball mind, especially defensively," Scheyer wrote in an email. "Whenever we would be in practice, he would always draw up plays during scrimmages that would get guys wide open 3's. He's a players' coach. I can say his recruiting speaks for itself. He was a huge reason I went to Duke, and because he was a high level player, it was easy for him to relate to me as a player."

Collins doesn't see recruiting Chicago to be as much of an obstacle as some have made it out to be. He believes recruiting Chicago is no different than recruiting in any major city.

"It's about developing relationships no matter whether you're in Chicago, New York, Detroit, L.A.," Collins said. "Whatever program you're with, you have to target the right guys, and you have to build relationships. If you're at a state school, you have to build relationships with high school coaches and AAU coaches.

"I've loved recruiting Chicago. For me, I grew up there. A lot of coaches I knew growing up are still high school coaches. The guys in AAU, I've known since I was a high school player. For me, Chicago is home. I've always had an affinity for Chicago players. That's what I grew up on."

Collins has been contacted before about openings.

"Your phone always rings," Collins said. "You always listen. It's never to the point of a serious decision -- do you pull the trigger or not. I haven't got that far in the process. I'm anxious for that, but it has to be something I'm really interested in."