From All-City prep star to successful college coach, Jimmy Collins’ basketball career has had many memorable moments. After a stellar career at Corcoran High School, Collins became a high-scoring guard at New Mexico State under coach Lou Henson. He set a school record for most points in a game with 42.
Collins was named an All-American during his senior year after averaging 24 ppg for an Aggies team that finished 27-3 overall and advanced to the NCAA Final Four. During his three years at New Mexico State, Collins averaged 20.1 ppg.
The 6-foot-2 Collins was drafted in first round by the Chicago Bulls in 1970. Collins’ brief pro career included a stint with the Carolina Cougars of the American Basketball Association. Collins stepped away from the game for a few years but returned to basketball in the early 1980s to serve as an assistant at Illinois under his former coach, Lou Henson.
Collins got the chance to become a head coach in 1996 when he was hired to take over at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has since become the school’s all-time winningest coach with more than 200 career wins. In 1997-98, Collins guided the Flames to their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Collins is a member of numerous halls of fame and he is a charter member of the Corcoran Hall of Fame.
1965-1967: Plays basketball in high school and was named All-City first team three times; Receives basketball scholarship to New Mexico State
1969-1970: Named to Look Magazine All-American team, US Regional Writers All-American team, MVP of NCAA Midwest Regional. Breaks single game scoring record with 41 points vs. the Air Force. Later sets new record with 42 points
1970: New Mexico State rises to No. 3 in national rankings; Finishes senior year with 1,733 points and a 24.4 ppg average
1970: Signs contract with Chicago Bulls of the NBA
1970-1972: Scores 284 points in 76 games with the Bulls
1972: Switches to the ABA’s Carolina Cougars
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 from 1980-1983. He also coached in the pro-college league of Chicago and was named Coach of the Year in 1981.
1982-1995: Assistant coach at Illinois University with coach Lou Henson
1996: Named head coach at the University of Illinois at Chicago
1998: Coached the Flames' to their first-ever NCAA Tournament bid; 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"; Received the 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.
1998: Inducted into the Urban Sports Hall of Fame of Syracuse; Selected as a Father of the Year by Chicago's Father's Day Council
2002: Wins the school's first-ever league tournament title
Co-chairman of the Chicago Special Olympics
Charter member of the Corcoran Hall of Fame
Inducted, along with the rest of his 1970 Final Four squad, into the New Mexico State Athletics Hall of Fame