Bobby Collins, a former Winston-Salem State head basketball coach, is back in the CIAA as the head coach at Shaw.
Collins, whose Rams won the CIAA title in 2012, went on to coach four seasons at Md.-Eastern Shore before spending the last season two seasons as an assistant at South Carolina State.
"I'm ecstatic for this opportunity to be a head coach again," Collins, 54, said by phone this afternoon. "When you've been a head coach for 18 years you miss what it's like to be running your own program, so I'm just excited to be able to put my stamp on this program."
He steered the Rams through a difficult period of the transition to Division I from 2006 through 2009. As it turned out, the Rams didn’t jump to the MEAC and stayed in Division II.
Collins' eight WSSU teams went 115-110, which included a 5-24 record with just five home games in his first season in 2005-06.
During that season the Rams hit the road for big paydays from schools such as Notre Dame, Georgetown, Kansas, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Because they were in a five-year transition period to Division I and the MEAC, they had no conference championship to play for.
Once the Rams got back into CIAA play, however, they contended for league titles and achieved that in their second season in 2012. Collins' four CIAA teams went 46-19 in conference play.
“Coach Collins will do great things at Shaw, so I was happy to hear that he’s going to be in the CIAA again,” said WyKevin Bazemore, who played for two seasons for Collins at WSSU and is now an assistant coach at Va.-Wise. “Coach has always been a player's kind of a coach, and he welcomes his players into his office to talk about anything. I loved playing for him, and I wish him good luck.”
Collins is expected to hire Ken Spencer, a former assistant with him at WSSU and a former Fayetteville State head coach.
"You remember my style of play when I was at Winston, and I want my guys to play hard and show heart," said Collins, a former player at Eastern Kentucky. "When I played I had more heart than talent but I recognized that."
Collins replaces Dominique Stephens, who was the interim head coach after Joel Hopkins resigned just before the season started for family reasons. Stephens and the Bears went 5-28, losing their last six.
Including his five seasons as head coach at Hampton, where he won a MEAC championship, Collins has an overall record 229-249. He was also an assistant at Hampton for its 2001 and ’02 MEAC championship teams.
Coach Cleo Hill Jr., a former Shaw coach who led the Bears to a league title, guided WSSU this season to its first CIAA title since 2012. The Shaw-WSSU basketball rivarly is already a good one, but it just got a little better.
"Oh yes, those were always good games against Shaw and now with Coach Hill going up against Coach Collins, there will be even more to talk about," said Bazemore, a four-time All-CIAA performer and the third-leading rebounder in school history.
Collins joins a list of head coaches from in the league who have won the conference championship in recent seasons: Hill, Stephen Joyner Sr. (Johnson C. Smith), Luke D'Alessio (now at Fayetteville State; won a title at Bowie State), Shawn Walker (Elizabeth City State), Lonnie Blow (Virginia State), Jay Butler (Virginia Union), James Stinson (Livingstone) and Darrell Brooks (Bowie State).
"It shows you how many great coaches there are in the CIAA and they know how to win a championship," Collins said. "Not much has changed in the league since I was last there, but I do know we have to get out and recruit to turn this thing around."
Murray Garvin, the head coach at South Carolina State, said it's great that Collins is getting another chance to be a head coach.
"I'm not only losing a great assistant but a great friend," Garvin said. "He's going to be good for the CIAA and he's familiar with what the league is all about. I'm happy for him."