Hang time, with Coach Penny
Making the most of my homecoming experience as an alum this past weekend, I was able to sit down face to face, and talk it out with TSU's newly hired men's basketball coach.
Once a former standout during his playing career at Belmont, at only 34 years-old, Brian “Penny” Collins will now look to put together a standout career, as Tennessee State University’s 18th men’s head basketball coach.
No stranger to Nashville, as it is his hometown, Coach Penny insists that coaching at home is just a partial percentage of what makes his new position as head coach exciting, with the majority of satisfaction coming from being a difference maker.
“Having the opportunity to be the one to change these kid’s lives…the guy that has the say-so in bringing in guys that fit your culture is what drives me,” said Penny. “Once you’re in that position, you want to impact as many lives as possible,” Penny continued.
Enforcing a standard of behavior and respect of the locker room and overall brand of business, or in this case basketball, is an area where coaches can create a culture of success.
“You want to get as many people around your program who are doing things the right way…especially when no one is looking,” said Penny when asked what the key to culture was for TSU hoops. He continued, Sure, culture can change overnight, or it can be a waiting process. Fortunately, I’m coming into a program where we have a lot of guys who understand what it means to be a part of something special, so it’s been a smooth transition and we as a team just have to continue on that path in order to put us in a position to win a lot of games.”
Married with one son, Coach Penny is more than a coach to his team, but also a relatable father figure who understands life’s challenges outside of basketball.
“Being a former player, I understand the everyday grind, being able to juggle going to class, practice and study hall and all that comes with being a well-rounded student-athlete, said Collins. He continued, “I’m also young enough to understand where these guys come from in terms of culture; the music they listen to, the clothes they wear and some coming from single parent households…we just have so many different dynamic kids on this team that come from so many diverse backgrounds that I’m able to move into any living room that I walk into.”
No matter the sport, no matter the level, all players have a ceiling. I too like to believe coaches do as well. When Coach Penny had been asked to talk about his ceiling, both personal and program wise, his answer couldn’t have been more genuine.
“For me, I’m not striving for the NBA or some Power Five conference position. My ceiling as a head coach, is to be somewhere where I can have the opportunity to be the difference between what a player is, and what a player ought to be…just to change kid’s lives every day and get them their degree and it just so happens I’m here at home in Nashville at Tennessee State. ”
Coach Penny continued, “as far as the team is concerned, our expectation is to compete for championships, every single year, flat-out. We want to bring in guys consistently to generate that buzz for this program so that when it’s time to compete, our opponents know, that when they play Tennessee State, they know they’re going to get a certain brand of basketball, OUR brand of basketball.”
Coach Penny and the Tigers will tip off the new era of TSU hoops November 10, as they travel just over five miles to Allen Arena to take on the Lipscomb University Bisons.