A look into the rise of Emporia State Head Women's Basketball Coach Jory Collins


It’s often said that the greatest coaches are some of the best teachers. For Jory Collins, it was that teaching mind that has helped establish one of the most successful programs in Division II women’s basketball over the last decade.

Now in his eighth season leading Emporia State, Collins has led the Lady Hornets to at least 20 wins in every season he has been the Head Coach. Throw in five MIAA Tournament Championships, seven conference title games, six trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, and an appearance in the 2015 NCAA Division II Final Four, and it’s clear that his 182-47 overall record as a head coach is no fluke.

“The biggest factor for our success is our culture. We work really hard at creating an environment where every person and player in our circle feels valued,” said Collins, who will lead his team against Southwestern Oklahoma State in Friday’s season opener. “Our environment is competitive, tough, selfless, and honest.”

To understand Collins’ mindset, it’s good to understand how he ended up leading this program. He came to Emporia State because he wanted to be a teacher. The school has a terrific teacher education program, and he thought it would be a great avenue in achieving both a teaching job and a high school basketball coaching position. The decision to enroll at Emporia State led him to seek volunteer coaching work, and he found himself in Head Women’s Basketball Coach Brandon Schneider’s office. Schneider – now the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at the University of Kansas – had just won 30 games and appeared in the National Championship. While Collins hadn’t considered coaching women prior to arriving at Emporia, he saw it as a wonderful opportunity to learn and grow with a program that was having great success.

Collins became an assistant coach within the program and never looked back. Following a year that saw the Lady Hornets win a National Championship, Schneider left Emporia to take the Head Coach job at Stephen F. Austin University, and Collins was elevated to Head Coach at Emporia.  While excited, he also recognized that expectations that were now on his shoulders.

“I knew I wanted it, but I’d be lying if I told you I was sleeping like a baby every night,” said Collins. “I was extremely excited, but also very nervous.  There was tremendous pressure taking over a National Champion, let alone taking over for a coach the caliber Brandon Schneider.”

With the aforementioned success of the program, perhaps most impressive has been Collins’ ability to make Emporia a “destination” school for very talented players, despite the fact that it competes within Division II. The atmosphere and community are two important components of Emporia’s long run.

“Emporia State is… a terrific community in general,” he said. “Most student-athletes who fit our profile are terrific competitors, and people who are competitive don’t like to lose. We play in front of 2,000 fans per game at home, which out draws most D1 women’s programs. We’re very fortunate to be in a position where women’s basketball is important to our university and community, and they come out support us.”

Yet, it’s not all about the basketball for Collins. As Head Coach, he’s an active member in the local and University communities, and puts a strong focus on the development of the entire student-athlete. Academics are never sacrificed for on-court success. In fact, it’s just the opposite.

“The vast majority of players don’t come here expecting it to lead to a pro career; they come here to get a degree in a field where they want to make a living.  We know – and they know – that’s priority number one, and we lead NCAA Division II in team GPA last year with a 3.74,” added Collins. “That is my proudest moment as a coach.  And again, it just reiterates the quality of student athlete we’ve been able to have here.”

So, now, on the eve of another season, one might wonder whether Emporia State has much left to prove. Collins, though, sees it differently – and brings a mindset that makes one think Emporia State will find itself playing late into the season once again in 2017-18.

“Each year is an opportunity to show what you’re capable of, it’s a new team, new dynamic, new strengths and weaknesses.  We always have aspirations of being National Champion again, why else would you play or coach?” said Collins, “We don’t go out to prove anything to anybody else, and we aren’t concerned with people outside our program.  We are simply trying to be the best we can be every day.”

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