College Sports

Collins has NW turnaround nearly complete

Instead of following the Northwest boys basketball team to the locker room following Friday's Class 6A sub-state championship win over Maize, coach Chris Collins spent a few minutes reflecting alone in a hallway of Dodge City High.

It was an emotional moment for Collins, whose team plays Blue Valley Northwest (21-1) at 4:45 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 6A quarterfinals at Koch Arena.

Collins, in his third season, is two seasons removed from a gut-wrenching 3-18 season.

"There's not a day that goes by that I don't remember that," said Collins, 35. "But it was something that basically just made me want to work that much harder. I'm pretty stubborn, and if I don't get the results initially, I'm eventually going to get the result. I'm not going to stop. I can't accept it."

That resolve dates back to childhood.

He was usually smaller than most kids, but that never stopped him from wanting to be the best. Especially at basketball.

"I want to give everything I have," he said. "My mom said, 'You've got to out-work people. It will work out.' "

If he had a bad game playing high school ball in Houston, he'd be back in the gym, working out the kinks. It was the same when he played at Phillips University in Oklahoma.

Now he watches game video, breaking down opponents and assessing his own team's performance.

"Chris spends an inordinate amount of time (working)," Northwest athletic director J. Means said. "After every game, he looks at their film and gives them a sheet, 'Here's what you need to improve on, here's what you did great.' "

Collins wouldn't have it any other way.

"That's a comfort to me," he said. "I remember when we played East (late in the regular season), and we looked horrible. I thought, 'I've got to do something.' I just went back to work. There's always something that I feel I could do if we're not putting the results on the floor."

Players notice his fierce intensity. They see it in games, they see it in practice, they see it when Collins competes in a game of H-O-R-S-E.

"He doesn't like to lose," Northwest junior Spenser Gales said. "He keeps us confident and keeps us working on our game. He's been working on our maturity, so we can be ready to play."

Northwest's return to the state tournament — the Grizzlies won the 2005-06 title — is part of the progression Collins planned. Northwest went 10-11 last season and lost in a sub-state final.

Collins' resolve, focus and work ethic is why he was promoted from assistant to head coach.

"He's doing exactly what we hired him for," Means said. "We knew he'd put in the time and effort to not only make them better basketball players, but also better human beings. It's about how hard Chris works."