Chicago recruiting connections, as helpful as they may be, can only mean so much to the average player. But what if an assistant coach could look a high-schooler in the eye, and tell him with full legitimacy that he knows what it takes to make it the NBA before selling the program for which he works.
That’s what Brian James brings to the table.
James was announced as Northwestern basketball’s newest assistant coach, officially joining Chris Collins and Pat Baldwin and confirming what we already knew.
Though the program recently lost a stellar recruiter and coach to Georgetown in Tavaras Hardy, it gains an entirely different level of pedigree in James, who can play an important role in courting the formative recruiting classes of the Collins regime.
James comes to Northwestern from the Philadelphia 76ers, where he assisted Collins’ father, Doug. He’s also worked as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons, Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards with stints as an advance scout and ESPN analyst. When it comes to knowing talent when he sees it, James is just about as qualified as you get.
As if James’ NBA pedigree wasn’t enough, its also coupled with and augmented by 18 years of coaching high school basketball in Illinois, some of which were spent at Glenbrook North where he coached Chris Collins.
Foregone conclusions and overvalued connections are rarely worth their weight in banter when it comes to getting a high school athlete to commit to a program, and there may be plenty of recruits who couldn’t care less about James’ pedigree. However, his experiences both in recognizing elite talent and working with high school basketball players give him enough credibility to open the ears of players who may have shunned Northwestern before.
Of course, this all takes his potential impact on the court for granted, which by itself can be rather substantial, given that Collins hired James as an “X’s and O’s” guy. But while Northwestern has never been—and probably won’t be—an NBA player breeding ground, James brings experience from the top and bottom to the Northwestern program.
For a team rebuilding under a new regime, finding solid footing in a middle ground is an awfully good start.