Basketball - W
Courtesy: Jeri Thorpe, Athletic Media Relations
ABOUT TOM COLLEN
When Tom Collen answered the call to return to the University of Arkansas, he knew he was coming home.
The seventh head coach in Razorback history, Collen served as the first assistant head coach during the mid-1990s. His recruiting work led to one of the greatest moments in Arkansas history – the 1998 Final Four.
His recruits were the key to a golden age of women’s basketball at Arkansas in the mid-to-late 1990s. It would be the same process in the 21st century, and Collen got to work immediately.
The fall signees for the Class of 2008 put the Razorbacks among the top 25 in recruiting.
By January 2008, Collen had the current Razorbacks in The Associated Press Top 25. That made Collen only the ninth coach in women’s college basketball history to take three different programs into the AP rankings, and he had done it in only 10 seasons.
Collen has kept his foot on the gas and enters the 2013-14 season with the 20th-ranked recruiting class by ESPNW.com.
In his six seasons with the Razorbacks, Collen has coached seven all-Southeastern Conference selections including SEC Co-Freshman of the Year C’eira Ricketts, the SEC’s Sixth Player of the Year Charity Ford and the Co-Sixth Player of the Year Sarah Watkins.
His Arkansas teams have produced one WNBA draft selection, 10 All-SEC selections, six league community service team picks, several SEC Players of the Week and made four postseason appearances.
In a recent season with the Razorbacks, Collen guided the team to several “firsts” and program bests. The 2011-12 edition of the team returned to the NCAA Tournament reaching the second round before a very close, two-point loss sent Arkansas home. Collen guided the Razorbacks to a program-best eight consecutive SEC wins, a 10-win season and a tie for fourth place in the final standings. He was voted as the SEC Coach of the Year, the first ever Arkansas woman’s coach and just the second Razorback basketball coach, ever selected. Collen went on to the national ballot for NCAA Coach of the Year.
Collen’s road home to Arkansas started in the Blue Grass state.
Settled in at Louisville and putting the Cardinals in the top 25 and the NCAA second round, Collen earned his 200th career victory that season and seemed ready to move UL into the Big East elite.
Then, the phone rang and Collen came home.
“Some of my fondest memories both as a person and as a coach are from my time in Fayetteville,” Collen said. “I have always felt that Arkansas has the potential to excel at the national level. We proved that during my tenure here as the recruiting coordinator that resulted in an appearance at the Final Four.”
Goin’ to the show
Collen jumped back into the Arkansas basketball scene, wasting no time in returning the Razorbacks to the postseason. In his first six seasons at Arkansas, the Razorbacks have made four postseason runs with one trip into the second round of the NCAA Tournament when Collen lost to defending national champion Texas A&M on the Aggies home floor by just one basket.
He guided the Razorbacks to the semifinals of the WNIT Tournament in 2010-11 falling to Illinois State on the Redbirds’ home court after playing three of the four postseason games on the road.
PUTTING A FENCE AROUND ARKANSAS
Every coach knows it is important to keep your home state players home and Tom Collen has done just that. After inheriting six in-state players in the 2007-08 season, Collen has had at least two players from Arkansas and as many as six from the state on the roster each season.
“Getting the best players in the state of Arkansas to want to stay home and be Razorbacks is important to me and my staff,” he said. “In state players grow up passionate about the Razorbacks and we want those players to come to the University of Arkansas and earn their degrees while having the opportunity to represent themselves, their University and their state on one of the biggest stages for our sport, the SEC.”
Collen scored a big get signing Fayetteville native Calli Berna for the 2011-12 season. Berna amd her high school program dominated area play and she carried that success and winning attitude on to the court for Collen. Berna earned Southeastern Conference All-Freshman team honors in 2012 and set the single season assists record last year while often playing 40 minutes - or more - in a game.
That rich tradition of getting the high profile players continues for Collen in 2012-13 with the addition of Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville, Ark.
As a senior, Jackson led the Red Devils to a 26-4 record and a 12-0 mark in league play culminating in the 5A state title. Jackson averaged 22 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks as a senior. Some of Jackson’s recent honors include being named the MVP of the state championship game, all-state and all-conference honors and earning WBCA All-America honors.
“We have been very patient with Jess’s recruitment,” Collen said. “Every program in the country wanted her so it’s very significant that she decided to stay home and become a Razorback. This is a young lady that could play any position on the floor if we ask her. She is the true definition of a point forward. She has guard skills in a post player’s body.
"The last time an in-state player of her caliber stayed home was Shameka Christon, and Arkansas was in the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years. Jess has the ability to have the same type of impact and more,” Collen said.
100 RAZORBACK WINS
Head coach Tom Collen reached his 100th win at Arkansas against Pepperdine becoming the third coach in program history to do so joining Gary Blair (198-120, 10 years) and John Sutherland (174-88, 9 years).
GETTING IT DONE IN THE CLASSROOM
Academics are the reason that Razorback women’s basketball players attend the University. Collen had coached six student-athletes to a selection on the SEC’s Academic Honor Roll and has had numerous selections on the department honor roll as well.
In the most recent semester (Spring 2013), Collen’s Razorbacks has one student-athlete on the Department Honor Roll (3.0-3.49) four on the Athletic Director’s List (3.50-3.99) and one Academic Champion (4.0).
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Community service has always been important at Arkansas and Collen has made sure that spirit of giving back continues under his tenure.
Collen has coached six selections to the Southeastern Conference Community Service team. They include Sarah Pfeifer (2008), Charity Ford (2009), Ashlea Williams (2010), Ashley Daniels (2011), Julie Inman (2012) and Erin Gatling (2013).
20 or More
Coaches often look for the 20-win plateau as a measuring stick for a possible trip to the postseason. If Collen were to look over his career at Arkansas, he would see three consecutive 20-win seasons, that include three postseason appearances.
Arkansas coaches have 19 20-win seasons in program history. Collen joins Matilda Willis, John Sutherland and Gary Blair as the only coaches to have three consecutive 20-win seasons with the Razorbacks.
Collen’s 24-win season in 2011-12 is the fourth-best win total from any coach in Arkansas history.
Arkansas was well represented in the NCAA statistics in 2012-13. The Razorbacks checked in at No. 44 in the country in assist/turnover ratio, No. 49 in turnover margin and No. 47 field goal percentage defense, No. 46 in three point field goal defense, and No. 47 in assists per game. Arkansas is No. 43 in scoring margin.
Calli Berna ranked ninth in the nation this season in assist/turnover ratio, finishing with a 2.42 mark. She was No. 16 in the country in assists per game with 6.3 and ranks No. 181 in steals per game (2.1). Sarah Watkins ranked 118th in free throw percentage (78.3) and No. 165 in blocks per game (1.21).
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES OF BUD WALTON ARENA
Arkansas is 213-82 in 20 seasons in Bud Walton Arena including an 12-6 mark this year. Arkansas has had 19 winning seasons at Bud including 14 seasons with double figure wins. Arkansas has had 14 wins in a single season at Bud twice including the team’s 14-2 mark last year. The Razorbacks set a record with a 15-4 mark in Bud Walton in the 1998-99 season.
The Razorback had won 31 consecutive non-conference games in Bud Walton Arena before the loss to Tulane in the second round of the WNIT. Arkansas is 45-2 in non-conference games under Tom Collen (losses to Missouri, Dec. 2007; Tulane, March 2013).
2013-14 RECRUITING CLASS RANKED
Collen and the Razorbacks signed a solid group of five incoming players for the 2013-14 season and that class was ranked No. 20 by espnW HoopGurlz this spring. With No. 17 Jessica Jackson signing in the spring, the Razorbacks have what the ranking committee called “a potential game-changing player” for next season. The site also noted “if she (Jackson) plays both inside and out, she’ll be a player that few in the SEC can match up with.” The class also features three-star guards McKenzie Adams and Kelsey Brooks as well as Bria Pitts and Khadijah West. Jackson is considered a five-star recruit with three other signees, Adams, West and Brooks, earning three stars in the ranking system. Collen’s 2008 Razorback recruiting class was ranked in the top 25.
PRIOR TO ARKANSAS
Collen served as the recruiting coordinator for four seasons at Arkansas from 1993 until departing to become the head coach at Colorado State in 1997.
“I know the keys to success in building this program to new heights. I know we need to keep the best players in the state, and I will do everything in my power to make that happen,” Collen said.
In his final two seasons with Arkansas, Collen was promoted to assistant head coach for the Razorbacks.
“I developed great working relationships with many of the people here and those friendships proved to be very important in the decision to return to Arkansas,” Collen said.
The national coach of the year in 1999, Collen is one of the top women’s coaches in the game today by any measure. Along with his career percentage rankings, Collen won his 200th game in 2006-07, and in doing so put him on yet another list of coaching greats -- the fastest to 200 wins.
His 2006-07 Louisville team made history for the Cardinals by achieving the first national ranking in school history. Behind the presence of Big East Player of the Year Angel McCoughtry, only the second player in Big East history to lead the league in scoring and rebounding, Collen’s Cardinals closed the season with a school-record 27 wins and came within minutes of reaching the Sweet 16 for the first time ever.
In his first decade as a head coach, his teams have nine post season appearances and racked up eight 20-win seasons.
In fact, across the span of his entire 31-year women’s basketball coaching career -- head coach, assistant head coach or assistant coach -- Collen has had 30 winning seasons.
During his career as an assistant and head coach in Division I, Collen’s recruiting has been singled out as among the best in the nation.
One of the most sought-after assistant coaches in America during his early career, he recruited the athletes that put Purdue and Arkansas into their first Final Four appearances. During his 14 seasons as a full-time assistant with Utah, Purdue and Arkansas, Collen produced 10 recruiting classes that ranked top 20 in the nation.
His final class at Utah ranked 19th, starting an eight-year run in the top 20 for the up-and-coming recruiter. Collen’s seven-year tenure at Purdue resulted in seven consecutive recruiting classes ranked in the top 20, including the top class in the nation in 1989. At Arkansas, his final two recruiting classes were ranked top 20 with the 1996 class achieving the highest ranking in school history at fifth.
Perhaps the most recognized recruit in Collen’s Arkansas career was future University hall of fame point guard Christy Smith who led the Razorbacks to the 1998 Final Four. However, the recruiting classes during his four years as Arkansas’ recruiting coordinator included Parade All-Americans like Tennille Adams, 1998 NCAA West Regional MVP Sytia Messer and the second all-time three-point shooter in SEC history Wendi Willits. On the court, Collen’s defensive mastery turned Arkansas into a 20-game winner after one season. The Razorbacks posted two post-season appearances during his four years.
Departing Arkansas after the 1997 season to take over the Colorado State program, he turned the Rams into champions in his first season. The Rams took the Western Athletic Conference regular season title winning 24 games and advancing to the NCAA second round.
The next season, CSU ran the table in the WAC with a school-record 33-3 mark to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first and only time in school history. Led by Ram superstar Becky Hammon and fellow All-American Katie Cronin, Collen’s second year team put Colorado State on the map and earned conference, regional and national coach of the year honors for Collen.
While the accolades came for the 1999 team, Collen earned them again the following year as he guided the Rams to another 20-win season in 2000.
Rebuilding without Hammon and company, CSU reached the post season and advanced three games into the Women’s NIT before losing in the semifinals.
With a new foundation recruited to Fort Collins, Colorado State returned to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 and 2002. Changing conferences in 2001, the Rams took the Mountain West tournament title in 2001 and the MVC regular season title in 2002.
After the 2002 season, Collen appeared bound for the SEC at Vanderbilt, but the Commodores withdrew their offer after mistakenly interpreting the veteran coach’s academic record from his graduate work at Miami of Ohio. Taking a year off from coaching in 2002-03, Collen was vindicated by the registrar’s office at Miami.
The next year, Collen took over the Cardinals and had the same immediate impact experienced at Colorado State. With a single returning starter, Collen led Louisville to a 20-win season and the first appearance in the Conference USA tournament semifinals since 1999. His coaching turned Sara Nord into an All-America candidate that led the Cardinals into the post season.
In his second year, Collen had UL leading C-USA before losing one of his starting forwards, Missy Taylor, to a torn meniscus. Turning to one of his freshmen recruits, Yuliya Tokova, Collen rebuilt the Cardinals who finished the season with a powerful surge to reach the C-USA finals for the first time since 1998. In the title game, UL took its second hit with a torn ACL to Tokova, yet the Cardinal closed the year at 22-9 and in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001.
His time at Louisville first produced three all-freshmen team members three straight seasons with Jazz Covington, Yuliya Tokova and Angel McCoughtry, then all-conference honors peaking in 2007 with McCoughtry’s selection as the Big East Player of the Year. Covington became the first Wade Trophy watch list member in Cardinal history.
The native of Lancaster, Ohio, graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1977 with his bachelor’s in physical education. He completed his master’s in recreational education and in health education at Miami of Ohio in 1983 while serving two seasons as the Red Hawks’ graduate assistant coach.
TIME FOR FAMILY
Collen and wife Nicki have twins, daughter Reese and son Connor, and a younger daughter, Logan.