Mr. Intensity decides to take a break Boys basketball: After 11 high-energy seasons, Rick Collins, 46, has stepped away from his position as coach at St. Paul's for now.

February 26, 1997|By Lem Satterfield and Bill Free | Lem Satterfield and Bill Free,SUN STAFF

St. Paul's Rick Collins admits to being a combustible basketball coach who sometimes wears "my emotions on my sleeve." Sometimes, he simmers. Other times, he boils. On still other occasions, he explodes.

But he's always in control.

"Is he intense? You bet. Have I had to put my hand in his belt-loop and restrain him to the bench? Yes," assistant coach Gary Lipsky said of Collins, a former assistant to Dunbar's Bob Wade from 1976 to 1978. "But everything he does is for the good of the kids and the program."

And to know only that about Rick Collins, 46, is to cheapen his dedication and commitment to young people, which comes in many forms and is admired by his teaching and coaching peers.

That's why several of his players had a difficult time accepting the fact that Collins officially retired when the Crusaders' season ended last Friday, after his Crusaders edged rival Severn, 64-62, for Collins' fifth Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference championship in his 11 years as head coach.

Actually, Collins' decision comes a year late: He was prepared to step down at the end of last season.

But "Justin [Singleton], Chad [Unitas] and the other kids on the team talked me into coming back for one more year," said Collins, whose replacement has not yet been named. "Justin and Chad wanted me there for their senior year, and I couldn't turn them down."

In addition to his basketball duties, Collins is a golf coach for the Crusaders, faculty adviser to the school's honor council -- which deals with disciplinary issues -- and is "a fine history teacher," said Mitch Tullai, St. Paul's retired, legendary football coach.

Collins tones down his act for his newest position, being eighth-grade dean, which means being responsible for "monitoring academic and social issues of that entire class."

"Rick coaches upper school kids, but he teaches middle school, which puts him in an interesting situation. But he mixes well and moves effortlessly from one group to another. The kids' relationship with him is amazing," said Tullai. "He's very interested in personal growth, which certainly has contributed to his success as a coach. Give him the parameters, and he takes it the rest of way."

This from Collins, a man who jokes about his gruff features as "looking like pictures on post-office walls." A man who is the son of a member of the foreign service and who grew up overseas with stints in India, Holland and Italy. A man who 11 years ago took over a basketball program that had not won a championship in 43 years.

Collins' formula is simple: Go hard or go home.

"I ask these kids, just for the winter season, to be committed to playing basketball. I challenge them to give everything they have every game, because that's what I'm going to ask of myself," said Collins, a 6-3, 230-pounder who played guard on a state championship team, Montgomery county's Whitman, in 1968.

"I may not be the smartest coach, but I won't short-change a kid by not being prepared," Collins continued. "I may not be the best coach, or as good as most, but I work harder than most. I've been honest, as a coach with no hidden agendas."

Lipsky, 47, has been Collins' assistant for the duration of his tenure at St. Paul's, during which Collins compiled a 201-83 record with just three losing seasons.

"There's a whole lot more that you can say about Rick Collins, the man," Lipsky said. "Rick brings a sense of commitment, and he requires excellence. He requires young men to prepare to win by strengthening their weaknesses.

"There's an old saying, 'To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.' The type of morality and value Rick teaches, kids can use it to carry on in life."

Adair Newhall, a 6-4 center who is considering playing Division I college baseball, has had Collins as a teacher since middle school.

"He's really helped me grow as a person, and just his past makes you respect him as a coach and a man," said Newhall, who is 18. "Every kid on the team knows that he's an intense competitor. We understand his coaching methods as his desire to win, and that pushes us."

"As a coach," Collins said, "you're trying to motivate the players the best you can. But you have to figure out the character of the individual first, because you don't want to scream at someone and have them crawl into a shell."

Collins is calling it quits at a young age, but it may not be permanent. Collins said he needs to spend more time with his fiancee, Stacey Hoogerwers, 32, and his daughter, Jennifer, 20, a junior at Cornell.

"I guess I just need a break from the daily rigors: scouting three or four games a week -- including Sundays, Saturdays. Writing up scouting reports. Pre-practice preparation. Practice at 5: 30," Collins said. "You're really teaching two additional classes. Not to mention the after-game speeches, the game itself, and the officiating that drives you crazy."

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