OK, Chris Collins, but what did you do with the rest of your Super Bowl Sunday?

Knocking off No. 1 Purdue was the biggest win in 10 seasons for Northwestern’s coach. A day later, we asked him to describe what the afterglow was like.

SHARE OK, Chris Collins, but what did you do with the rest of your Super Bowl Sunday?
Chris Collins coaches Northwestern against Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Chris Collins coaches Northwestern against Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Northwestern basketball coach Chris Collins plopped into his car outside Welsh-Ryan Arena on Sunday, took a deep breath and shut the door. He was less than five minutes from home.

Four hours earlier, the only game of the day involving a Top 25 team had tipped off. With the Super Bowl on tap, how many viewers were going to be interested enough in No. 1 Purdue’s visit to Evanston to tune in at all, let alone make it to the end of the game?

By now, you should know what happened between the big, bad Boilermakers and the underdog Wildcats. If you don’t, you should be asking yourself why.

Northwestern 64, Purdue 58. It still looks like a misprint.

It was Northwestern’s first win ever against an AP No. 1 team and the biggest regular-season moment in many mostly bleak, fruitless decades of men’s basketball at the school. It was Collins’ signature victory in 10 seasons at the helm — surpassing even his lone NCAA Tournament win, in 2017 — and, surely, ended any doubts about his team’s return to the Big Dance next month and, for that matter, his own job security.

What a damn day.

“That’s what you always dream of,” Collins said 24 hours later, “especially when you come to a place where maybe there isn’t that tradition of winning and fan support and all those things.

“When you walk out on the court and you see a court storming and people going nuts? You can’t help but get a little emotional.”

The question put to Collins in a phone call Monday, even as he already was elbows-deep in preparation for a home game against No. 14 Indiana on Wednesday: What was it like in the afterglow of that celebration?

For a while, his emotions were right at the surface. He choked up when he hugged son Ryan, a team manager. He choked up again in the locker room just looking at seniors Chase Audige, Boo Buie and Robbie Beran, who lost so many Big Ten games in the seasons before this one, it was almost cruel. Northwestern was 45 games under .500 in league play over the last five seasons, but now — even after standouts Pete Nance and Ryan Young transferred out, leaving gaping holes in the frontcourt — it was tied for second place with the Hoosiers at 9-5.

Was this real?

“It made me feel so proud,” Collins said, “and it made me take a step back. That’s what sports is all about. That’s the beauty of sports.”

After seeing off the players and their families Sunday, Collins sat with his staff for at least half an hour and decompressed. They ate, talked about the game, smiled, laughed. It’s a home-game tradition that, especially after wins, is one of Collins’ favorite parts of the job.

“Can you believe that really happened?” Collins asked them.

Minutes later, he was in the car and pulling up to the house, where his wife, daughter and mother-in-law were waiting for him.

“Can you believe that really happened?” he asked them, too, as they greeted him.

Soon, neighbors were trickling in. The Super Bowl was on — Collins had been looking forward to the matchup — but the football game receded into the background with everyone still buzzing about basketball.

“It became a little bit of a block party,” Collins said.

He sat in a chair, the Chiefs and Eagles still hammering at each other, his mind still flashing images of Zach Edey and Purdue, his phone still buzzing with incoming texts.

By the time Collins started to really dig into the texts, there were 500 of them he’d yet to read. They came from former teammates, former players, fellow coaches and longtime friends.

Who enjoyed the win most of all?

“Probably my parents,” Collins said.

Oh, yeah, doesn’t he have a famous father? That would be Doug.

“He doesn’t watch games like a normal fan,” Collins said. “He lives and dies with every possession.”

Both men were thoroughly pleased by the effort to contain Edey, the 7-4 superstar, who’d scored 24 points but been hounded by a swarming defense into six turnovers, three of them coming in the final two minutes.

That will win the 48-year-old Collins some Big Ten coach of the year votes, no doubt. Northwestern’s defense has been a revelation. Michigan State, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Purdue have all tasted life on the “D” list.

Sleep was elusive Sunday night, but when Collins finally did go down, he went down hard. In the morning, Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Hoosiers were on his mind before either of his bare feet touched the floor.

“The life of a coach,” he said.

So much for the afterglow.

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