Interview with Tennessee State University Head Basketball Coach Brian Collins

Brian “Penny” Collins was officially named the Head Coach of the TSU men’s basketball program on March 26, 2018. A proven winner as a coach and player with deep ties to the city of Nashville, Collins is the 18th head coach in program history.

“It means the world to me to be the Head Coach at TSU,” Collins said. “Once I decided to get into the business, my eyes were always set on this job. To have the opportunity to not only unite an institution but also a city where I grew up is priceless. This is truly a dream come true that I will not take for granted.”

In his first season at the helm of the Tigers, Collins went 9-21, 6-12 in Ohio Valley Conference play, with a team of 10 returners.

A former member of TSU’s coaching staff, Collins spent the 2017-18 season as an assistant coach at Illinois State under Dan Muller. In his lone season in Normal, Ill., Collins helped propel the Redbirds to an 18-15 record and a berth in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game. Collins’ teams have played in their conference’s championship game in each of the past five seasons.

He served as an assistant coach at East Tennessee State during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons in a span when the Buccaneers went 51-20. During his time in Johnson City, Tenn., Collins got his first taste of the NCAA Tournament from a coaching perspective when the Bucs won the Southern Conference Tournament Championship in 2017 – earning a 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

A former standout during his playing career at Belmont, Collins got his start in the coaching industry as a graduate assistant at TSU under then-head coach Cy Alexander during the 2007-08 season. He became TSU’s Director of Basketball Operations in 2008-09.

Collins moved on to work as the assistant coach at Cumberland University (NAIA) in Lebanon, Tenn. for three seasons.

In his first head coaching experience, Collins led Columbia State, a community college in Columbia, Tenn., from 2012-15. His tenure at Columbia State was highlighted by back-to-back NJCAA National Tournament appearances, including runs to the Elite Eight in 2014 and the Sweet 16 in 2015. Collins was named 2014 Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Coach of the Year and 2015 NJCAA District 7 Coach of the Year after winning the Region 7 Championship.

Collins, who played his high school basketball at nearby Whites Creek, starred at Belmont for Rick Byrd. Then a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference, Collins served as a co-captain for the Bruins in their first-ever NCAA Division I Tournament appearance during his senior year in 2006. Collins, who was a four-year starter, scored 1,199 career points and graduated as Belmont’s all-time leader for assists and steals in the Division I era. The 2004 team was inducted into the Legends Hall of Fame in September of 2019.

He played professionally for the Kouvot Bears in Finland and the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Development League.

Collins graduated from Belmont in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in physical education. He went on to earn his master’s degree in sports administration from TSU in 2009.

Collins is married to Lakeya Collins and has one son, History.

– 2nd Season as TSU’s Head Coach in 2019-20
– Alma Mater: Belmont ’06
– Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.

“We welcome Coach Brian Collins to take the helm and take us to the next level. Coach Collins returns to make his mark on the program, bringing experience and hometown knowledge, all of which will help with recruiting local talent and getting TSU to postseason play. This is a great day for TSU Athletics and the TSU family, and our fans deserve it.”
– Tennessee State President Dr. Glenda Glover

“I am extremely pleased to have one of our own as our new head men’s basketball coach. Coach Collins will bring fresh enthusiasm to our program as well as an energy to the Gentry Center that is much needed. He is a thinker, leader, motivator, and competitor – all attributes that lend well to success in this business. He is here to build champions and win championships.”
– Tennessee State Director of Athletics Teresa Phillips

“I’ve known Penny since he was in high school, and I’ve always admired his passion for the game, his confidence, and his work ethic. The one year I had him here, he was outstanding. He really was excellent in every aspect of the job. He’s an elite recruiter, and our players loved him. Unbelievable with scouting reports, game management, in practice, and because he’s been a head coach, he had a great amount of confidence in himself. Any new Division I head coach has a learning curve and you have to gain the experience, but I think Penny is an absolute star in this business. He’s exactly what TSU needed.”
– Illinois State Head Coach Dan Muller

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