By Ron Wynn
NASHVILLE, TN — The Tennessee State University Tigers have given a former staffer his first chance at a Division 1 head coaching job. They announced Monday the hiring of Brian “Penny” Collins as the new men’s head coach, replacing Dana Ford, who left for a similar position at Missouri State. Collins was formerly a member of the TSU staff, serving as Director of Basketball Operations in 2008-09. He becomes the school’s 18th men’s head coach, and begins the job at 34.
Collins spent last season as an assistant coach at Illinois State under Dan Muller. There he helped propel the Redbirds to an 18-15 record and a berth in the Missouri Valley Conference Championship Game. He also served as an assistant coach at East Tennessee State during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. During those years the Buccaneers went 51-20. They won the Southern Conference Tournament Championship in 2017 and earned a 13 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Collins has extensive local ties beyond his time at TSU. Local high school basketball fans will remember his time at Whites Creek. From there, he became a star at Belmont. He started all four years for the Bruins, becoming on of Rick Byrd’s most dependable players. During his senior year, he was a co-captain, helping lead them to their first Division I NCAA Tournament appearance. Over that four year period, Collins scored 1,199 points and graduated as the school’s all-time leader in assists and steals during its time in Division I.
His professional basketball experience included both playing for the Kouvot Bears in Finland and the Bakersfield Jam of the NBA Developmental League.Collins earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Belmont in 2006 and a master’s in sports administration from TSU in 2009. He was a grad assistant at TSU in the 2007-08 season, and the following year became Director of Basketball Operations. That was followed by a three-year stint as assistant coach at NAIA Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tenn.
Collins first head coaching job was at Columbia State, a community college in Columbia, Tenn., for another three-year period. During that time his teams went to the NJCAA National Tournament twice, making the Elite Eight in 2014 and the Sweet 16 in 2015. He was named Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Coach of the Year in 2014 and NJCAA District 7 Coach of the Year in 2015.
TSU Director of Athletics Teresa Phillips welcomed Collins saying, “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.”“It means the world to me to be the Head Coach at TSU,” Collins added. “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 in, is priceless. This is truly a dream come true that I will not take for granted.”