BY STEFAN MODRICH/@StefanJModrich
Before Saturday’s Chicago Legends Classic at the United Center, Chicago Bulls radio play-by-play man Chuck Swirsky recorded an episode of his Timeout Bulls podcast with Northwestern head coach Chris Collins on campus.
It’s a must-listen for any fan of Northwestern or Chicago basketball.
As is well-known, Chris is the son of former NBA head coach and ESPN analyst Doug Collins. Collins and Swirsky discuss his memories of being a ball boy for his father with the Bulls, as well as his days at Duke and building a program in Evanston.
After Northwestern’s 67-64 win over Dayton, Collins asserted that the civic pride that comes with being “Chicago’s Big Ten team” is more than just a label.
“I know our guys take pride,” Collins said. “Half of our team is from the state of Illinois. Our guys take pride in that. I grew up in the Chicagoland area. I take great pride in being from Chicago.
“It was a pretty cool moment when you go out there, like man, there’s certain times you get proud of things you’ve done and walking out on the floor and coaching a game in the United Center against Dayton, to me was a really proud moment.”
A Glenbrook North High School graduate, Collins has had his roots firmly planted in Chicago for a while. A reinvigorated sports scene in the city has helped him channel some of his nostalgia for an era of success as a fan and observer into momentum in and around his own program.
“A number of my memories are of the old Chicago Stadium,” Collins said. “But when you look up in the rafters – I grew up a Chicago sports fan – and you see Stanley Cup championships and Bulls championships, and the United Center’s 20,000 (people), it kind of takes you back to being a kid.”
The recent death of Northwestern alumnus and TNT NBA sideline reporter Craig Sager came at the crossroads of Collins’ personal and professional life. NBA teams across the league have worn colorful “Sager Strong” uniforms, as did Northwestern’s mascot, Willie -– a tribute to the days when Sager himself was the mascot for the football team.
Our #B1GCats family will forever be #SagerStrong. pic.twitter.com/fHzHkdcSan
— NU Men’s Basketball (@NUMensBball) December 15, 2016
“We talked about him being a Northwestern guy,” Collins said. “I don’t think a lot of those guys knew him, but we talked about his legacy there. My dad worked for Turner Sports for a number of years, and Craig was his teammate.
“So me on a personal level, I knew Craig very well. He was always great to me and my family. What always stood out to me about him was his energy and he was always was smiling, always was cracking a joke. No matter what, he was in a good mood. And that’s something I try to do with my life no matter what’s going on, is be positive, and he did that to the very best.”