On Nov. 10, Northwestern head coach Chris Collins got the first win of his coaching career in a 72-55 win over Eastern Illinois behind 25 points and 11 rebounds from fifth-year senior Drew Crawford.
Collins is looking to take the Wildcats to uncharted territory: The NCAA tournament.
Northwestern, which is 1-1 on the season following a loss to Stanford, likely won’t make the tournament this season, but Collins could be the coach to lead the Wildcats to that feat. He’s got the coaching background from his father and Coach K, and quickly into his new job he was able to tap into Chicago when he landed a commitment from St. Rita High small forward Vic Law.
Collins’ tenure as head coach appears to be off to a good start, and in time he’ll have a revamped Welsh-Ryan Arena, as he continues to change the culture of the Northwestern basketball program. Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune reported on Saturday that Northwestern’s home arena will get a new floor, video scoreboard and cushioned seats in the stands behind the benches the university hopes to have in place for next season.
Installing a new scoreboard also requires the creation of a production control room, costs that can go north of $2 million. But Northwestern can recoup some of that by selling ads.
The new court likely will have darker purple and a block N, rather than the N logo with a wildcat head.
The arena largely has been neglected since a $6.75 million renovation in 1984. Nearly 30 years later, detractors view Welsh-Ryan Arena as an oversized high school gym with the Big Ten’s worst fan experience.
The change in the arena is part of other plans to enhance the facilities of Northwestern athletics. For next season, Northwestern will at least look the part of a big-time basketball program with a new-look arena while Collins continues to to try and turn that perception into a reality.