FARGO — It was around the turn of the century when Jory Collins started hanging around the Emporia State women’s basketball program, accepting any job he could. He started as a practice player.
That turned to a dual role of practice player/student assistant coach. It later morphed into being a graduate assistant and then a full-time assistant, all under former Emporia head coach Brandon Schneider.
“He’s kind of like the captain of the submarine that has had every job on the submarine,” Schneider said.
The North Dakota State women’s program found its captain on Monday with the naming of Collins as the head coach. After nine years together at Emporia and one year last season at the University of Kansas, Schneider and Collins have now both reached the Division I level as head coaches.
“No job or responsibility was unimportant to him,” Schneider said. “I think he was just a sponge and wanted to learn. He’s always had a great basketball mind, but there’s just a very gritty, blue-collar mentality about him.”
Collins was a full-time assistant under Schneider for four years at Emporia State, with the pair leading the Lady Hornets to the 2010 NCAA Division II title.
Being in charge of a Division I program is not the same, Schneider said, with almost all of the differences being off the court. That includes managing a bigger staff, dealing with more scholarships and a recruiting base that may be larger.
“But when it comes to the court and the film room and how you relate to players, parents and coaches, there is no difference,” Schneider said.
Schneider left Emporia to become the head coach at Division I Stephen F. Austin (Texas). He just finished his fourth year with the Jayhawks, with Collins coming over from Emporia for the 2018-19 season.
Collins started virtually from scratch in working under Schneider, joining the program in 2000 as a practice player and volunteer assistant until 2003. He returned a year later as a graduate assistant in 2004-05 and a second stint as a volunteer coach in 2006-07.
“It was like, ‘my impact is going to be greater than my income,’” Schneider said. “Yeah, he had that work ethic, where you had to scratch and claw your way to reach your goals.”
Collins finally became a full-time assistant in 2007 and remained in that role until Schneider took the Stephen F. Austin job after the Lady Hornets won the national championship.
At Emporia, the two coached a program that Schneider said built a bond with the community of Emporia, population 25,000.
“Most important, we got really good players and were fortunate,” Schneider said. “And then we had a president who gave us the best compliment we ever got, that we developed a love affair with the community and just had a great following.”
It’s what NDSU had in its Division II heyday in the 1990s. Crowds that frequently packed the old Bison Sports Arena have dwindled considerably over the course of the Division I era.
“It became important to the school and community and we had great fan support,” Schneider said of Emporia. “In women’s athletics, when people are showing up for games, and create a terrific home-court environment, not a lot of female athletes get to experience that and it becomes a calling card.”
After one year of not calling the shots as a head coach, Collins is back on the front chair again. He was one of four finalists for the Bison job with the other three not having head coaching experience.
“There’s a big difference between a suggestion and a decision,” Schneider said. “I always say there are three to five things a day a head coach has to deal with that came about that morning or throughout the day.”