If there’s anyone who knows how Riley Crean might be feeling right now, it’s Chris Collins.
The current Northwestern head coach was a high school basketball star in the north suburbs of Chicago in 1989 when his dad, Doug Collins, was fired by the Chicago Bulls.
Like Crean’s ouster from Indiana, it was as high-profile of a termination as it gets in sports. Chris’ father was being scapegoated for the Bulls’ repeated failures in the playoffs and suddenly the stability Chris knew during his formative years was gone. At the same time, Chris had his own life to live as he grew into a young adult and formed his own reputation past being “Doug’s son.”
At 17, Riley Crean is in a similar situation. He was only eight when his father was hired by Indiana. He pitches for Bloomington North and will play baseball for Indiana — the coaches have already reconfirmed their commitment — after he graduates from high school in the spring.
Still, it’s not a situation that comes without its difficulties, which is why Collins probably felt like one coach’s son should reach out to another.
(Tom Crean) also mentioned that Northwestern coach Chris Collins sent Riley a powerful text about his dad, former NBA coach Doug Collins, getting fired by the Bulls in 1989 while Chris Collins was in high school. “Going through that helped prepare him and make him the man he is now and the position that he is in now,” Crean said the text read. “That. Is. Strong.”
Chris Collins went on to great success in high school at Glenbrook North. He was named Illinois’ Mr. Basketball in 1992 before going onto Duke and starting a path that led to him becoming coach of the first NCAA tournament team in Northwestern history.
Riley Crean should also do well. He has a great base of support from his parents and the separation between his father and the university hasn’t been awkward, at least not publicly.
“I love Indiana,” Tom Crean told SI. “I loved it here. That’s not going to change. You can’t go loving something every day for nine years and then suddenly hate it.”
“I hope Indiana wins that national championship. And another one. I really do.”