The memories come flooding back every time Chris Collins steps off the airplane in Philadelphia. It always takes him back to his childhood.
The 38-year-old Collins is the associate head coach for Duke, the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament’s Midwest region. The Blue Devils were in town Friday to play a second-round game (they beat No. 15 Albany, 73-61) at the Wells Fargo Center.
The arena isn’t the same one a young Collins remembers, but it’s still rife with those memories. When he was a kid, he was following his dad, Doug, everywhere the former Sixers star went.
“A ton of memories stick out,” Collins told Metro. “Darryl Dawkins (was) sleeping in my house when I was a little kid. The main thing that sticks out are the times after the games, my dad bringing me back to the locker room as a 5-year-old and a 6-year-old, and all those guys, seeing them ice down.
“And they’re cracking on me, telling jokes. Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins and George McGinnis. It was a special time. I wasn’t real old, but I was old enough to know what was going on.”
Collins knows what’s going on with his father these days. In a season filled with injuries and the Andrew Bynum saga, the Sixers coach has had a tough go of it.
“We talk almost every day,” Chris said. “When you’re in this for a long time, there’s years where you have injuries and things are not going well, and you have a tendency to get down. I think overall he’s done a really good job. No one wants to win more than he does.
“I try to keep his spirits up and keep him up with the task at hand. He’ll keep teaching, watching them grow and hopefully things will be better in the future.”
For Chris, the future may bring his own head coaching job. He is reportedly the top candidate to replace Bill Carmody at Northwestern.
“Chris is growing up with it,” said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. “Chris knows everything about basketball. I mean, you ask him who scores — he’s just terrific. They’re beautiful people (Chris and Doug), and we feel like we’re one and the same family. I mean, I’ve known Chris since he was 17 years old.”
Chris joined Coach K’s staff as an assistant on July 22, 2000. In 2008, he was promoted to associate head coach. After this tournament ends, he may well be finalizing his own staff at Northwestern. Until then, he’s fully committed to Duke and making a deep run. The Blue Devils will take on Creighton, who beat Cincinnati 67-63 Friday, Sunday at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We’re excited,” he said. “We’ve been disjointed with injuries the whole year. We’ve kind of managed that, weathered the storm, got Ryan [Kelly] back late in the year and we’re excited about still playing. We feel like we have all the pieces.
“There’s a lot of teams capable of winning [it all]. You can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You’ve got to play the game in front of you. Hopefully, we win that and see who’s left standing.”