Collins talks tough schedule, playing up-tempo and more in introductory press conference

Greg Collins addresses the media during a press conference where he was announced as the new head coach of the WKU women’s basketball team on April 4 in Diddle Arena. The announcement of Collins as head coach came shortly after Michelle Clark-Heard announced she would be leaving WKU to coach the Cincinnati Bearcats women’s team.

Matt Stahl

Athletics director Todd Stewart introduced Greg Collins as WKU’s new women’s basketball with a press conference on Wednesday afternoon. 

Collins, formerly the associate head coach of the Lady Toppers, inherits the program from Michelle Clark-Heard, who left WKU to take the head coaching job at the University of Cincinnati.

“Greg has been truly invested in our players, in our program, every aspect of it,” Stewart said. “Recruiting, coaching, in-game adjustments, scouting, you name it and Greg Collins has been right there every step of the way.”

The Hilltoppers enjoyed great success under Clark-Heard, winning three out of the last four Conference USA tournament titles and making the NCAA Tournament four times in Clark-Heard’s six years as head coach. Collins was an assistant for all of Clark-Heard’s tenure, serving as associate head coach for the last four of those seasons.

“The last six years at Western Kentucky, I feel like we’ve had two head coaches here,” Stewart said. “That’s a big reason why we’ve had so much success, and a big reason why I have so much confidence in where we’re headed in the future.”

Collins said that while it was bittersweet to see Clark-Heard leave, he was excited to take on the head coaching role.

“I know it’s a lot more than just 12 inches when you change chairs,” Collins said. “I understand that. But I also know in the past six years that Michelle and I worked really closely together. There’s not a whole lot of changes from what we do. We’ve worked really hard to make sure this thing got back right.”

Stewart said that he had known since last season that when Clark-Heard left that Collins would be her successor.

“I just had a feeling that this year was going to be the year that she might leave,” Stewart said. “She was very open and honest about that, so Greg and I were able to have, really some very good conversations before she actually accepted the Cincinnati job, we were having these conversations and that transparency from her, in terms of letting me know where she was with everything enabled me to have some conversations with Greg.”

Collins said that he wasn’t planning on making any drastic changes from Clark-Heard’s coaching and recruiting style, but that he wanted the team to be able to play up-tempo in the future. 

“I think the difference will be how we had to play last year to win and how we played prior to last year,” Collins said. “Last year we had a very short bench with only nine players, and four of those were freshmen. We couldn’t play quite the up-tempo game that we had played in the past, so our goal is to add to the roster and pick the pace back up to start playing fast a little bit more. The style of play that we have played is consistent with what Michelle and I both wanted, we were working on the same agenda with that.”

Collins also said that that he and his family are very happy with where they are. 

“I didn’t want to just bounce from place to place chasing a job,” Collins said. “I wanted to be someplace that we wanted to be and we were happy here. We like Bowling Green, we love Western. The kids are happy and so I wasn’t willing to chase a head coaching job and take a chance at being unhappy in life.”

When Collins was asked if WKU would have a game against Clark-Heard’s Bearcats he said that the Hilltoppers’ schedule was already looking difficult.

“We may have the toughest non-conference schedule that we’ve played in the last six years coming up,” Collins said. “Two teams that were in the Final Four, a national champion of course, and another team that was in the Sweet 16, then we have two Power 5-type schools, so Cincinnati isn’t welcome on our schedule right now.”

Reporter Matt Stahl can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @mattstahl97.