Current ESPN broadcaster Bill Walton granted me an exclusive this week. The video of the entire Q&A is linked here. I asked Walton his thoughts on Northwestern Coach Chris Collins. Today's devastating home loss to Nebrasketball aside, Collins has some made noise in his first year at the helm, guiding them to .500 in the Big Ten, before the loss to Nebraska today.
The thoughts and opinions of Bill Walton on Chris Collins are transcribed below. Hall of Famer and one of the consensus top 50 players in league history, Walton was joined on the interview by his son, former NBA player Luke Walton.
Together, they are the third father-son duo to win NBA championships. Bill Walton, the #1 overall pick in the 1974 NBA Draft has won numerous individual accolades as well. He's such a big national icon of the game that even his Twitter parody account, @NotBillWalton (156,000 followers) is an internet star in his own right.
The real Bill Walton, The Big Red, is one of the most colorful and controversial commentators in basketball history.
During the call I also asked the Waltons about that infamous 2001 Elite 8 game between Illinois and Arizona. What it was like to have a father call a NCAA Tournament game that his son was playing in. All kinds of conflicts of interest in that that one. We also talked NBA All-Star game, Chicago Bulls, Bulls chances in the NBA playoffs, Tom Thibodeau and Joakim Noah.
First we talk Chris Collins:
"It's a great story, we're happy for him, what Chris has been able to do following in the footsteps of his remarkable father," Bill Walton said.
"All the great things that Doug has done, and for Northwestern, you have to have a great coach. There's never been a top player, a top team or a top organization without a great leader. The experience that Chris has been able to garner, growing up with his Dad, being at Duke, all the things that he's been able to witness he's suddenly able to transfer that."
"And when you have a great coach, there's nothing more important than that. Except maybe ordering flowers for your wife on Valentine's Day," Bill Walton continued.
Northwestern plays great defense, but their offense needs serious work, and it starts and ends with Drew Crawford. How he goes is very often how NU goes. It would help if they got more out of JerShon Cobb. Given how much he has the ball in his hands, it;s up to him to be a legitimate second scoring option and get the Wildcats offense into a flow.
Today, Welsh-Ryan Arena was packed, and there was a lot of energy in the building, it's just unfortunate that the Wildcats blew it by losing to Nebraska. The Huskers got their first road win this season, and ended a ten game road losing streak.
"I was so pleased with the turnout, and I was hoping that would be the case, because that's what the guys deserve. It was really cool to see the environment, and to me it's only going to get better. This is just the start of where we're headed. And we need that kind of support."
Before today's 53-49 defeat, the Cats had won five of their previous seven; including rare road wins at Minnesota and at Wisconsin. They won three in a row on the road for the first time in forever.
"What we talked about this week was to stay grounded," Collins said.
"The guys were getting a lot of praise, and rightfully so, for what they've done the last couple of weeks. But a lot of times it's the same guys who were talking about us when we lost our first three Big Ten games by 25 points and didn't think we could win a league this season, and go 0-18."
"So you need to take it all with a grain of salt. It's too early to talk about postseason, we have seven games left."
Today's loss was a serious blow to the Northwestern NIT hopes. However, Collins was exceeded expectations during the conference portion of the season. And Bill Walton realizes what Collins has accomplished.
Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBC, CBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)
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