On Saturday afternoon, Northwestern forward Kale Abrahamson shared his thoughts about the recent coaching transition. There’s no suspenseful lede, because trust me, he was honest.
In his final season as head coach, Bill Carmody went 13-19—including nine straight losses to end the year. Carmody was fired shortly after the season, and NU moved to hire former Duke associate coach Chris Collins.
“I saw it coming,” Abrahamson said. “I’m sure many people did when we lost however many games we lost at the end there.”
And when his team heard the news?
“I want to say the mood was actually kind of positive. Obviously, we wanted the best for Coach Carmody and his family, but we wanted to go in a different direction and move forward… There’s no reason we shouldn’t win here.”
We’ve been exposed to plenty of Collins news in recent months. The head coach landed four commits for his 2014 class, which includes local standout Vic Law and highly coveted point guard Bryant McIntosh.
But the Collins era technically began before the NU-Ohio State football game, with fans crowding the seats for an open scrimmage.
There were kinks: The 2013-14 team looks far short of tournament contention, the offense was stilted and the Wildcats lack any semblance of depth in the post.
There were positives: Collins riled up the fans and students with a passionate post-scrimmage speech, some guards seemed much improved and Drew Crawford played at full strength.
It’s part of this memorable transition, one in which Collins hopes to raise NU basketball standards. That begins with recruiting, as he carries a stellar pedigree and reputation to Evanston.
And when Abrahamson officially heard about the hire?
“I was so happy. A dream come true,” he said. “I wanted to play for Duke my whole life… Duke came to me.”
Collins arrived on campus and immediately established new precedent, moving away from the Princeton offense and into more of a Duke-inspired system. He’ll lean heavily on shooters and more of an up-tempo attack, as he focuses on how to maximize the strengths of his current roster.
“Everything’s different,” Abrahamson said. “It’s been a great transition. Everyone’s been talking about the Princeton thing. We really got back to playing basketball, like we realized how to make reads, playing the game we played in high school.”
Abrahamson, a former three-star recruit from West Des Moines (Iowa), averaged 4.9 points per game in his freshman season. After shooting just 36 percent in 2012-13, with his team struggling offensively throughout, he felt frustrated with the Princeton attack.
Even without Drew Crawford and Jershon Cobb, no one surrounding Northwestern excused the putrid close to last season. The Wildcats were frequently blown out of games, falling into their conservative offensive style that failed to disrupt opponents like it once did.
“I don’t want to be too negative, but there were some issues with it,” Abrahamson said. “I felt it was kind of robotic.
“It was either: ‘Go here or go here.’ You weren’t really playing basketball, weren’t making decisions as a player. Collins really wants us to play and use the talents we have individually.”
New system, new hope. We’ll see.