Collins brings overseas experience to Nashville-area youths

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 at 12:14am

When Brian Collins left Belmont in 2006, Bruins men’s basketball coach Rick Byrd remarked he wouldn’t be surprised to see his three-year starter at point guard find a home coaching hoops.

It was a reasonable guess. For starters, Collins carried himself like a coach. Vociferous and high energy, Collins was always a motivating force of nature for his Bruin teammates. And he loved the game. His dad, Ricky Collins coached at Pearl-Cohn and is now an assistant at Antioch.

A lesson from the Fins

Hoops was in Collins’ blood, to say the least. But after graduating from BU, Collins decided first to pursue a professional playing career before coaching. He had a stint in the NBA D-League and then found himself playing overseas in Finland.

It was there that Collins’s perhaps inevitable passion for coaching was finally sparked.

“I was playing over in Finland and we’d practice twice a day, once in the morning and once later in the afternoon,” Collins said. “In between our practices, there were these under-12 [years-old] and under 13 kids practicing. They were practicing like they were in the army. They were all constructed and organized and teaching the fundamentals.

“I think it’s starting to show how much better the foreign players are by the way they’ve won the last few Olympics [gold medals]. They look at our tapes from the [1980s] of Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that’s who they emulate. By the time they’re grown-up, they are so much better fundamentally. I mean, they were doing drills that we did like taking charges.”

Seeing the caliber of the Finnish youth practices got Collins thinking. He had starred at Whites Creek, led Belmont to the NCAA Tournament and was now playing professionally overseas. From the time he was in high school, he’d been scrimmaging with Music City’s top players and of course, he was a coach’s son.

“I thought, ‘Why can’t I teach Nashville kids the way these kids are being coached in Finland?’” Collins said.

His first camp

So Collins is doing something about it. Later this month, he’ll be conducting a camp for rising seventh and eighth graders. The camp will take place at the Watkins Park Community Center across from Martin Luther King High School on North 17th Ave.

It will run four days from July 30-Aug. 2 and Collins will have assistant collegiate coaches in addition to former Nashville players from local colleges and high schools on hand to help.

“I hate to say it, but I’ve helped out at camps at Belmont, Vanderbilt and Tennessee State,” Collins said. “I think I can take the best aspects of each one of those and give the kids the best experience possible.

“Even little stuff, like when I was in the NBADL, they played music over the speakers. I am going to make it fun for the kids.”

But the camp won’t be a cake walk either. Collins mentioned how rigid the Finnish practices were and he’s serious about teaching his campers. He’d like to have about 30 registrants from around Nashville who play competitively for their middle schools or summer AAU teams.

“I’m not interested in coaching first-timers who want to learn the game,” Collins said. “I want serious, competitive players who are interested in learning what I have to teach.”

A future in coaching hoops

And Collins concedes this may be the first step towards his own coaching career. His experience suggests he is qualified to coach on numerous levels. Collins’ ability to motivate players, coupled with his experience playing for Belmont coach Rick Byrd and now professionally around the world point towards being qualified on many levels.

“I see myself as a college coach,” Collins said. “If I have to start teaching kids at the middle school or high school level, then I’ll earn my way up that way.”

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