Some Northwestern fans have been waiting for this day from the moment they heard Bill Carmody was fired. For others, the wait began during the former coach's tenure. In whichever instance it may be, each member of the Wildcat faithful was given a new reason for hope today with the hiring of Chris Collins.
Collins, the former Duke associate head coach, is full of promise and potential to take Northwestern basketball to the NCAA Tournament and beyond. But for those fans who have waited so long for this to come, a little more waiting is still in order.
For all we know, Collins could be the next Mike Krzyzewski or John Wooden, finally given a chance to shine on his own and craft his own team. He could end up being a monumental disappointment that turns an already weary fan base sour and disenchanted. But right now, the only things we know for sure are the lengths of our expectations and assumptions.
Collins appears to be the man who could catalyze a much-needed culture change for Northwestern basketball. However, the fruits of his labor may not be ripe by November.
Before the Wildcats even start to practice, Collins and his staff will need to figure out if Jaren Sina will be there or at another school. Sina, who was released from his letter of intent by his request shortly after Carmody was fired, has opened up his recruitment once again. If Collins can convince Sina to re-commit to Northwestern, then one of the most promising recruits in school history will be slated to work alongside Dave Sobolewski.
Then, once the team is assembled in full, Collins will have to implement a new system to which the players much adjust. One or more coaches from the Carmody staff may carry over, but it's exceedingly unlikely for the Princeton offense to come with them. There will be a learning period for the players, but if and how long it will extend into the season is yet to be determined.
Finally, and most importantly, is recruiting, a field where the most immediate successes won't make their full impact until months after they happen. Collins and company could bring in three or four incredible players from the class of 2014, but it won't have any bearing on how this season plays out on the court.
Immediate improvement is not certain, but that's never what this move was about. This is more than a coaching change: This is culture change, and that may take longer than some are willing to wait. Success in Collins' time will be marked by more than just a trip to the NCAA Tournament and a few more fans in Welsh-Ryan. For so long, Northwestern has been defined by what it couldn't do, and not what it could do. If Collins lives up to the lofty expectations, some might eventually ask what the Wildcats couldn't do with him at the helm.
This won't happen tomorrow. It may not even happen this season. But the Northwestern faithful now find themselves at the start of a new chapter in the program's history, eagerly waiting for Collins to put his pen to paper. Yet it's only the start.
Time will tell just how successful Collins will or won't be. Until then, the fans who have waited for so long will need to wait a little longer.