THREE NCAA TOURNAMENT BERTHS (1998, 2002, 2004)
ONE NIT BERTH (2003)
TWO HORIZON LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS (2002, 2004)
MIDWESTERN COLLEGIATE CONFERENCE REGULAR SEASON CHAMPIONSHIP [TIE] (1998)
FOUR 20-WIN SEASONS (1997-98, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04)
MIDWESTERN COLLEGIATE CONFERENCE CO-COACH OF THE YEAR (1996-97)
The all-time winningest basketball coach in UIC history with 218 career victories, Jimmy Collins took the program to new heights during his 14-year tenure.
Named head coach at UIC on March 27, 1996, Collins took over a team that had never made a postseason appearance and had reached the 20-win plateau only two times in the previous 49 years of competition.
He quickly changed the fortunes of the Flames, bringing his recruiting and coaching expertise with him from his previous assignment as an assistant under legendary head coach Lou Henson at Illinois.
Over the next 14 years on the sidelines at UIC, Collins guided the Flames to four postseason appearances, including three trips to the NCAA Tournament (1998, 2002, 2004) and one bid to the NIT (2003). He also has a conference regular-season championship (1998) and a pair of tournament titles (2002, 2004) to his credit while posting four 20-win seasons, including a school-record 24 victories in 2003-04.
On July 20, 2010, Collins announced that he was ending his coaching career at UIC effective August 31, 2010 to "enjoy retirement." He concluded his time as the Flames' head coach with the most victories in school history after compiling 218 victories from 1996-2010.
Upon his arrival at UIC in 1996, Collins wasted little time in proving that he had what it took to be a successful head coach.
In his first year on the Flames' bench, Collins coached UIC to a 15-14 overall record and a spot in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference Tournament championship game, where the Flames fell to Butler by just a point, 69-68. After a 1-8 start, Collins and his crew staged a remarkable turnaround, going 14-6 in their final 20 outings of the season, including an 11-5 conference finish, which tied for second place. For his efforts, Collins became the first UIC coach in over 13 years to garner coach of the year honors, sharing the MCC Co-Coach of the Year recognition with Butler's Barry Collier.
In 1997-98, Collins led the Flames through a storybook season that concluded with their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament. UIC, which racked up a school-record matching 22 wins during the year and earned a share of the MCC regular-season title, received an at-large bid to the Final 64 along with fellow MCC schools Butler and Detroit. The Flames recorded many memorable victories during the season, highlighted by wins over the Big Ten co-champions, Michigan State; the Missouri Valley champs, Illinois State; and the MCC co-champions, Detroit. UIC reached as high as 19th in the RPI ratings while receiving the most votes in school history in the USA Today/Coaches Poll and the Associated Press' Top 25 poll.
Following the fairy tale season, Collins garnered numerous awards and honors. In addition to being selected as the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association NCAA Division I "Coach of the Year" and the Referee's Association of Chicago "Coach of the Year," Collins was also honored by the Ed Kelly Sports Program, Inc., with a 1998 Giant Award, which recognizes an individual not only for their professional accomplishments, but also for the example they have set for others following in their footsteps. Additionally, Collins was inducted into the Urban Sports Hall of Fame of Syracuse and was also selected as a Father of the Year by Chicago's Father's Day Council.
Known as a great recruiter from his 13 years spent stockpiling the Fighting Illini, Collins has continued his success at UIC, using the talent-rich city of Chicago and its suburbs as his squad's foundation.
Pundits need look no further than his highly-touted 2000 recruiting class, which featured all-state honorees Cedrick Banks and Martell Bailey from Westinghouse High School and All-Chicago Public Leaguers Aaron Carr (Lincoln Park) and Armond Williams (Austin), to assess his recruiting exploits.
Under Collins' tutelage, the quartet became the backbone of the best three-year stretch in school history. Upon the arrival of that class, UIC earned three straight postseason bids and compiled 65 wins, topping the 20-win plateau in each season, marking the first time a Flames team has reached that plateau in three straight seasons.
Individually, Bailey ranked No. 1 in the country in assists in 2002-03 and finished second in the nation in 2003-04 en route to CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major All-American honors. Banks was a three-time All-Horizon League First Team honoree and finished his career as the school's all-time leading scorer with 2,097 points. Williams became the first player in school history to collect over 1,000 points, 700 rebounds and 150 steals in his career. Banks, Bailey and Williams were all named to the Horizon League's All-Defensive Team during their careers.
The trio of Banks, Bailey and Williams joined Carr on the floor for the first time during the 2001-02 season. Collins used the regular season to mix together a group of veterans and talented rookies into a squad that would play its best basketball at season's end, claiming the school's first-ever Horizon League Tournament title and advancing to the NCAA Tournament. The Flames finished the campaign with a 20-14 record and gave eventual Final Four representative Oklahoma all they could handle in the tournament's opening round.
The next year, UIC eclipsed the 20-win plateau for the second consecutive season for the first time in school history and made back-to-back postseason appearances for the first time, earning the program's first-ever bid to the National Invitation Tournament. The Flames, who finished the season with a record of 21-9, tied the school record for league wins in a season, going 12-4 to finish in third place in the highly competitive Horizon League.
During the 2003-04 campaign, the dynamic duo of Banks and Bailey led the Flames to a school record 24 wins en route to the team's second NCAA Tournament appearance in a three-year span. UIC tied its school record for league wins with 12 while also setting a new high-water mark with its 10 road victories.
The Flames would need to be road warriors in '03-'04, as they defeated Butler at Hinkle Fieldhouse in the Horizon League Tournament semifinals and then rallied to take out Milwaukee in the Panthers' home arena to capture the league tournament title.
Collins, was forced to miss to the final 19 games of the 2006-07 season after taking a leave of absence to undergo a procedure to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm. The loss of Collins had its affect on the Flames as the team finished under .500 for the first time since the 2000-01 campaign. UIC battled without its leader down the stretch, though, winning five of its last seven games to earn a fourth place finish in the Horizon League.
With Collins back on the sidelines in 2007-08, the Flames quickly rebounded from the previous season's sub-.500 finish. Led by All-Horizon League First Team guard Josh Mayo, who led the squad with 17.1 ppg and finished seventh in the nation in three-point shooting, and intimidating 7-foot center Scott VanderMeer, who led the Horizon League in blocked shots and rebounding, UIC went 18-15, finished fourth in the Horizon League standings and advanced to the Horizon League semifinals for the first time since 2003-04.
Collins picked up banner victories in 2008-09, guiding the Flames to road wins over Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. Making UIC's decision over the Yellow Jackets even greater was the fact that it marked Collins' 200th career victory as the Flames' head coach.
UIC has a track record of defeating foes from big-time conferences under Collins' watch. Georgia Tech (ACC), Vanderbilt (SEC), Ole Miss (SEC), Oregon State (Pac-10), Northwestern (Big Ten), Michigan State (Big Ten), Texas A&M (Big 12) and DePaul (BIG EAST) are some of the power conference programs that have gone down in defeat at the hands of Collins-led UIC teams.
Collins came to UIC from the University of Illinois' sister campus in Urbana-Champaign, where he developed a reputation as one of the nation's top recruiters, helping put together the class that took the Orange & Blue to the NCAA Final Four in 1989.
During his tenure with the Fighting Illini, Collins helped the squad to a 279-129 record (.684). In the Big Ten, Illinois compiled a 144-90 mark during his 13 years, which included a share of the regular season title in the 1983-84 season.
Collins' relationship with Henson, one of the NCAA Division I's all-time winningest coaches, began when Collins was a star guard under Henson at New Mexico State. During his three-year playing career, Collins averaged 20.1 points per game and, in his senior season, was named an All-American, pouring in over 24 ppg on an Aggies squad that finished 27-3 overall and advanced to the coveted Final Four.
A first-round draft pick of the Chicago Bulls in 1970, Collins had a short-lived career in professional basketball, with the Bulls and also the Carolina Cougars of the old American Basketball Association, before returning to the Las Cruces campus to serve as a graduate assistant under Henson. He worked there for two years, watching and learning from his mentor, but then got out of coaching for a while. He returned to his true calling a few years later.
In 1976, Collins returned to Chicago to start a trucking business. A year later, he became a hearing officer for the Cook County Probation Department, a position he held for six years. While serving as a probation officer, Collins also worked as a volunteer head coach at St. Thomas School in Chicago, where he is currently on the Board of Trustees, from 1980-83. He also coached in the pro-college league of Chicago and was named Coach of the Year in 1981. Then in 1983 he was reunited with Henson at Illinois when he was named an assistant coach to replace Tony Yates, who left to take the top post at Cincinnati.
From his time spent in Chicago, Collins developed a strong rapport with a number of the Chicago Public League and suburban coaches, which helped him recruit players who were key to much of the Illini's success. Names like Kendall Gill (Rich Central), Marcus Liberty (King), Nick Anderson (Simeon), Deon Thomas (Simeon), Kenny Battle (West Aurora), Kiwane Garris (Westinghouse) and Lowell Hamilton (Providence St. Mel) are a big part of Illini basketball lore.
Collins, who is co-chairman of the Chicago Special Olympics, was the first inductee into the Hall of Fame at Corcoran High School in Syracuse, N.Y., where he starred during his prep days. In 2004, Collins was inducted, along with the rest of his 1970 Aggie Final Four squad, into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame.
Most recently Collins has received include the African-American Coaches of Excellence Award from the Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and the Chicago Defender's Men of Excellence award. He also received the Butterfly Award from the Lupus Foundation of America, Illinois Chapter in June 2010 for his work fighting the disease and promoting lupus awareness.
Collins and his family are immensely active in the community and on campus. They have teamed with the Lupus Foundation of America, Illinois Chapter for numerous Walk for Lupus Now events across Chicagoland over the years, and they even spearheaded Lupus Awareness Night held during the Flames' game against Oregon State in 2009. The Collins family also started the Jimmy and Hettie Collins Scholarship and Endowment to provide scholarship needs for deserving UIC students, particularly those serving as team managers or members of the UIC Pep Band.
Collins and his wife, Hettie, reside in Flossmoor, Ill., and have four children, Erica, Kenny, Semaj and Brandi.