SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Collins wasn't the Big Ten Coach of the Year, but maybe he'll be the national coach of the year.
Northwestern's head coach was announced Thursday as one of four finalists for the Naismith Coach of the Year award, joined by a trio of mighty impressive names: Gonzaga's Mark Few, Villanova's Jay Wright and Kansas' Bill Self. All three of those coaches' teams earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA tournament.
Collins lost out to Minnesota's Richard Pitino in the conference's coach of the year race, with Pitino earning just rewards for flipping Minnesota's record from a year ago from 8-23 to 24-9.
Collins certainly would have won, however, if the award honored entire tenures, say if it was called the Big Ten Coach of the Years award.
Collins has done a remarkable job in four seasons taking Northwestern from the bottom of the Big Ten standings and a college hoops afterthought to a winning program in the conference, obviously culminating in the Wildcats making the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA tournament. They play their first game Thursday afternoon.
This season, in addition to the big "first" of reaching March Madness, there have been many others. Northwestern has a program-record 23 wins, scored huge victories over Wisconsin, Michigan and Maryland and reached the Big Ten Tournament semifinals for the first time.
The winner of this year's Naismith Coach of the Year award will be announced on April 2.