New Mexico Native Brings D-1 Coaching Experience To NWC
Following an extensive search, Northwest College has hired Jay Collins as the new head coach of the men’s basketball team.
“I’m very excited to be coming to NWC,” Collins said. “It’s a great opportunity for me.”
NWC athletic director Brian Erickson said Collins’ knowledge of the game — coupled with an enthusiasm for coaching — set him apart from other applicants.
“He [Collins] is personable, he has a great sense of humor and he’s really passionate about basketball,” Erickson said. “You want a coach who’s able to take a group of boys and develop them into young men on and off the court, and I think he’s passionate about doing that.”
Erickson also pointed to Collins’ coaching experience at different levels — from junior college to Division I — as a selling point.
“He loves the developmental aspect of coaching the junior college student athlete,” Erickson said. “His experience shows, and his excitement to be at Northwest College and lead our program is obvious.”
Erickson coached the Trappers from 2010 through 2018, with Dawud Abdur-Rahkman serving as the team’s interim coach for the 2018-19 campaign. NWC leaders re-opened the position at the end of the season and initially planned to hire another interim coach. However, they were impressed enough with Collins to name him as the permanent replacement.
A native of Farmington, New Mexico, Collins is no stranger to junior college athletics; he played two seasons at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona, before finishing his collegiate playing career at Southern Utah University. Since graduation and following a short stint playing in the NBA’s developmental league, Collins has served as an assistant for a couple of D-I programs, including two seasons at Northern Arizona University. He followed that with six seasons at Idaho State University in Pocatello, and most recently spent a season as the head coach of the boys’ team at his alma mater, Farmington High School.
Having coached at just about every level of basketball, Collins said he was always eager to get back to coaching at the junior college level.
“NWC has fielded a successful program in the past, and I think the resources are there to be successful at a really high level,” Collins said. Although he’s coached at both the D-I and D-II levels, Collins described junior college as his favorite
“It’s the perfect mix, you can really coach them,” he said, adding, “To me, it’s a purer form of basketball.”
Collins always knew he’d one day get into coaching.
“Basketball is the only thing I’ve been relatively good at, so once I was told I couldn’t do it anymore, I figured I’d try to teach other people how to do it better than me,” he said.
As for what he enjoys the most about the job, Collins said it’s bringing together a diverse group of people for a singular purpose.
“It’s cliche, but true — the camaraderie, the team-ism, coming together from all different walks of life for a common goal,” he said. “Basketball brought me all across the country, and I’ve recruited in Europe; you realize that all these guys with different backgrounds have a lot more in common than you initially thought.”
As for what fans and players can expect from his style of coaching, Collins said his team will be built on speed and aggressiveness.
“We’re going to play fast,” he said. “Ideally, I’d like to press for 40 minutes, as long as we have the personnel to do that. We’re going to spread the ball around the floor to try to get easy shots, make our defense dictate our offense. We’ll be tough, and we’re going to play fast.”
Collins is taking over a team that went 10-21 last season, 3-12 in the Region IX North. Under interim coach Abdur-Rahkman, the Trappers showed flashes of brilliance, but they were heavy with sophomores. Going into the summer, Collins will basically have to build from scratch; with just a handful of returning players, he said the sooner he gets started recruiting, the better.
“Recruiting is the biggest thing,” he said. “Getting to know the returning players, there’s not many coming back, and trying to put a team together is the biggest thing. And it’s not too late to do that, in my opinion.
Changing the culture of NWC basketball is also a priority for Collins, who said he’s ready to build for the longterm.
“Culture to me is the biggest thing — if you have a good culture, you can build on that,” he said. “That comes from holding guys accountable, and that’s something I pride myself on. Laying out the rules and the consequences and sticking to it. You’ll hear this a lot from me, but no one is bigger than the program, not even me.”