SALT LAKE CITY — Chris Collins and Bryce Drew have plenty in common.
They're both coaches' sons. They both had great success in the NCAA tournament as players. And their teams are facing off against one another Thursday in the Big Dance.
Oh, and they also both have pictures with Clark the Cub.
Ahead of Northwestern and Vanderbilt tangling Thursday afternoon in the NCAA tournament, the teams' coaches shared a story of them running into each other at last year's World Series, where they both snapped pictures with the Cubs' mascot.
"Ironically my wife and I went to a Cubs World Series game, and (we were) getting a picture with the mascot and here comes Chris Collins in his Cubs jersey and his wife," Drew said Wednesday. "We talked there back in October. I wish we got a picture altogether, because that would have been good for today."
"It was pretty funny, actually, I don't think he recognized me at first, because I had a full uniform on that night," Collins joked. "He was dressed all nice, he had a nice shirt on and slacks. I had my Cubs jersey on, my hat on backwards and maybe some eye black on. He did a double take when I went and said hello to him. It was pretty funny. We were with our wives. I wish we would have taken a group photo if we would have known this was going to happen. We each took our photos with our wives with Clark the Cub. Gave each other a hug, and said, 'Go Cubs,' and kept it moving. It's funny to think about that now."
Things will surely be more serious when the two coaches go head to head Thursday, but these guys have known each other for a while and have walked similar paths to get to where they are now, head coaches at major-conference programs.
Both guys are household names in the Chicago area. Collins obviously has taken Northwestern to new heights after working as a ball boy when his famous father, Doug, was coaching the Bulls. Drew, meanwhile, hit one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history, leading Indiana-based Valparaiso to a buzzer-beating win in 1998. Collins started at Duke and reached the 1994 national title game. Drew played for the Bulls and a few other NBA teams.
And the two are friends, with that friendship extending well past that World Series game.
"Bryce and I have been friends for a long time," Collins said. "I've known him since he's been in high school. I've known his family, his father, someone I really respect. I've known his brother, obviously, too. We have a lot in common. So we've always kind of connected because we come from basketball families. Our dads were coaches. We grew up in gyms and the game. So we've always connected on that level and gotten along really well."
"I've known Chris, and Chris has always been great to me on the road, great to me whenever we talk. He sent me some encouraging texts this year," Drew said. "He's a great coach. He's been really, really good to me."
So this adds another fun layer to things when Northwestern plays in its first-ever NCAA tournament game Thursday.
And if you're at Wrigley Field later this season and see some grown man in a backwards hat taking a picture with Clark the Cub, it's probably just Chris Collins.