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Collins granted 3-year extension


July 2, 2008

Photo: Steve Woltmann/UIC Athletics

UIC coach Jimmy Collins, who received a contract extension that runs through 2012, is excited about this season’s Flames team.

By the time Jimmy Collins’ contract as UIC men’s basketball coach runs out in 2012, the veteran coach will have spent 16 years as a Flame. Collins was granted a three-year contract extension on Tuesday by athletic director Jim Schmidt, renewing the faith the school has in the coach.

The goals are simple: Continue moving the program upward, qualifying for the NCAA tournament and winning UIC’s first postseason game in school history. If Collins can get that done, it truly will have been a sweet 16 years.

“Coach Collins has become synonymous with UIC basketball and has become an institution on this campus,” Schmidt said in a statement. “He is an excellent ambassador for UIC, understands our mission and will retire as a Flame.”

Since being hired on March 27, 1996, Collins has guided the Flames to three NCAA tournament berths and four 20-win seasons. UIC has won one regular-season championship (tied with Detroit in 1997-98) and two Horizon League tournament championships (2002, 2004).

There was speculation from outside the program that Collins would not even return after surgery for an abdominal aortic aneurysm in January 2007.

However, Collins returned to the bench energized and led the Flames to 18 wins and a fourth-place finish in the Horizon League last season after pundits picked UIC to end up in eighth place.

“One of the very, very important parts of coaching and one of the things that makes us want to stay in coaching is the young people we have the opportunity to be around,” Collins told the Chicago Tribune’s Neil Milbert.

“Right now I’m enjoying it as much as I’ve ever enjoyed it. You get a lot out of the teaching aspect. I came back last year with a bunch of good kids who wanted to learn, were respectful and worked hard, and those kids won more games than anyone expected.”

A half-hour after the Flames were eliminated by Butler in the Horizon League semifinals back in March, Collins had designs on coaching for a few more years even though his existing contract had just one year remaining.

“Coaching is something that I love doing,” Collins said at the time. “I would like to think I could do this for 3-4 more years.”

Collins has a strong base returning with seniors Josh Mayo and Scott VanderMeer. Mayo was one of the top three-point threats in the nation and UIC’s leading scorer, and VanderMeer was the Horizon League’s most intimidating post defender.

Collins also has solid veterans in juniors Jeremy Buttell and Spencer Stewart and sophomores Robert Kreps and Tori Boyd.

Collins believes his 2008 recruiting class of forwards Robert Eppinger and Jelani Poston and guards DeMarkus Isom-Jones and Zavion Neely can make an immediate impact.

“I am as excited as I have ever been about our upcoming season and the young men we have returning, as well as the recruits we have coming in,” Collins said in a statement. “I am as eager to get on the court and continue to build this program as I was the day I got the job.”

In other recent news:
UIC nets Eppinger, Isom-Jones (team awards) (4/29/08)
Collins: "I could do this for 3-4 more years" (team, recruiting) (4/7/08)
Flames' seniors reflect (3/18/08)
HORIZON TOURNEY: Weary Flames bow out in semifinals (at Butler) (3/9/08)
HORIZON TOURNEY: Flames freshmen close out Loyola (3/8/08)
HORIZON TOURNEY: Loyola awaits UIC for Round 3 (3/6/08)
HORIZON TOURNEY: Balance boosts Flames past YSU (3/5/08)
Mayo, VanderMeer receive Horizon honors (3/4/08)