By Ron Wynn
The Tennessee State University Lady Tigers have a new head basketball coach. TSU Athletic Director Teresa Phillips announced Wednesday that Jessica Kern had been hired as the 11th head coach in the program’s history.
“Jessica Kern is a high-energy and enthusiastic young coach who has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level,” commented Phillips on the TSU website. “The more I learned about her, the more convinced I became that she was the right fit for our university. She is committed to excellence in the classroom and on the court. A coach’s daughter, with the headiness and toughness to flourish in the Big Ten and as a professional athlete, Jessica is a proven leader, proven winner and proven recruiter that will help us be successful in the OVC. Perhaps most importantly, she understands the special nature of working at Tennessee State. I look forward to welcoming her to the TSU family.”
She was most recently head women’s coach at Mississippi Valley State University. She helped elevate them into the Top 25 among most improved Division 1 women’s basketball programs. Kern also established the Kern’s Korner Community Outreach/Mentorship Program, and also helped assemble the largest recruiting class in school history. She spoke with enthusiasm about her new position.
“It is with great excitement that I join the Tennessee State University family,” said Kern. “I consider it an honor and a privilege to bring my experience and passion for coaching to Nashville. While winning should be noted as the standard goal, please know that my ultimate priority is to teach students, nurture young women and return the spirit of a champion to such a prestigious program. Moving forward the immediate goal of the Lady Tigers Women’s Basketball Program is to cultivate athletes who execute diligently on the court, mold athletes who aspire to be pillars within the Nashville community and mentor athletes who understand that academic achievement extends beyond their tenure at Tennessee State. Thank you to President Glover, AD Teresa Phillips and the committee for their vote of confidence and for trusting someone who was once just a little girl from the city of Milwaukee who dared to dream.”
Prior to taking over the program at MVSU, Kern was an assistant coach at Furman University following a four-year stretch as head coach at NCAA Division II Lincoln (Pa.) University. Kern has previously been named Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Coach of the Year. That came in 2014-15, when her team went 22-9 and finished in a tie for the CIAA Northern Division title. She guided the team from a three-win season in her first year (2011) to that 22-9 mark in her final year there. Her Lincoln squad also earned the program’s first win over a Division 1 opponent, beating Morgan State 94-86. She’s also been an assistant coach and media specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
Kern also was a three-time All-Big Ten selection at Penn State University, and a captain on the track and field team. She played professionally for seven years in Europe. During those off-seasons, Kern taught at various Milwaukee high schools and assisted various girls basketball and track & field teams, while also establishing basketball camps in inner city neighborhoods. As a high school athlete, Kern earned 11 letters in basketball, volleyball, and track and field at Washington High School. A Milwaukee native, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Penn State in 2002, and has one son, Bobby Lee Collins, Jr.