FARGO — North Dakota State athletic director Matt Larsen and new women’s basketball coach Jory Collins stood before the cameras holding a jersey with the No. 11 on it. The number stood for the 11th coach in Bison history.
It also could have stood for the last time NDSU reached double digits in victories in one season, the 11-18 record in 2014-15.
There are other numerals that are more pertinent than a jersey as to why Collins was introduced to the public on Tuesday afternoon at the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Like No. 12, which is the total number of victories the Bison have had in the Summit League in the last four years. Or No. 1, which is the total number of wins NDSU has in the Summit tournament since gaining Division I eligibility in 2008-09.
“The people I’ve talked to, they’re hungry to get women’s basketball back to where it was over 15 years ago,” Larsen said. “We have to get back to winning basketball games here at NDSU.”
Just how Collins will do that, he said, will start with fielding a team that is a reflection of the city it plays in. A former assistant and head coach at highly-successful Division II Emporia State (Kan.), he’s well aware of the success the Bison had in the 1990s winning five national championships.
“I’m very proud to be a midwestern guy, I love the Upper Midwest,” Collins said. “I love the work ethic and the blue collarness that comes with that. The toughness comes with that. You can’t get through these winters and not be tough. That’s an environment that fits my personality really, really well and that’s a big reason why I was very, very interested in this job.”
Collins comes to NDSU after one season as an assistant at the University of Kansas. That experience, he said, gave him perspective on how to run a program with a full staff of assistants and support crew.
The last time he took a head coaching position, Emporia State was coming off a Division II national championship in 2010.
“Some people have asked, you’ve never had to turn a program around,” Collins said. “My response is there’s also a lot of pressure in taking over a national championship team. You go 3-3 at the start at some places and everybody is clapping for you. Other places it’s unacceptable. I’m going to do what I’ve always done and that is to get to know the players really, really well and find out what makes them tick.”
The Bison return eight players and have three incoming recruits for 2019-20. Collins said he’s already been on the horn trying to find one or two more players. Recruiting, he said, starts with regional players.
Collins cited the support the program gets from the administration and the first-class facilities as attractions to the job. He said the NDSU position is one of those that is talked about in the coaching inner circles as one that is attractive.
“There are no major hurdles here to have a successful team,” he said. “So it’s going to be our goal to get this going in the right direction as fast as possible. I think we have the things in place here to do that. This place checked all the boxes as far as being a destination job for me.”
His hiring ended almost eight weeks of vacancy after former head coach Maren Walseth and the school mutually parted ways. Larsen said Collins has yet to sign a contract but he expects that to happen by next week.
It’s a certainty Collins will get a multi-year contract, Larsen said, but the days of six-year deals like Walseth got are over.
“I don’t think you’ll ever see another six-year contract as long as I’m here,” he said.
And as long as Collins is here, he said turning the program around starts with players playing with “relentless effort.”
“That plays as hard as any team you’ve seen play here hopefully in a really long time,” he said. “Just sheer guts and effort. We’re going to be really, really tough and we’re going to add some consistency to what we do that you’re going to be able to see night in and night out. You’re going to see the growth and it’s going to happen quick.”