Inquirer South Jersey Coach of the Year: Sean Collins, Paulsboro
Sean Collins has never let the size of his school alter his outlook. Collins has been the boys' basketball coach at two Group 1 schools, the smallest enrollment classification in New Jersey. In both instances, his little guys routinely knocked off the giants.
Sean Collins has never let the size of his school alter his outlook.
Collins has been the boys' basketball coach at two Group 1 schools, the smallest enrollment classification in New Jersey. In both instances, his little guys routinely knocked off the giants.
Collins went 111-44 at Schalick. He has gone 131-21 in five seasons guiding the Red Raiders.
Collins has brought a Group 4 mentality to a Group 1 school. That mind-set was evident this year.
The Red Raiders finished the season 31-3 and won the state Group 1 championship. That record includes wins over South Jersey Group 2 champion Camden and Group 3 champ Winslow Township.
When the Red Raiders beat Group 3 state champion Bergenfield, 90-65, in an opening-round matchup in the Tournament of Champions, they became just the second Group 1 team in South Jersey history to win a T of C game.
During the regular season, Paulsboro entered several showcases, always looking for the highest competition.
And their coach wasn't worried about the losses, just about seeing his team develop.
As it turned out, the Red Raiders kept winning, and their coach continued to challenge his veteran team as much as possible.
"I feel if you can play the best competition, it will get you ready for the state tournament," said Collins, The Inquirer's South Jersey boys' basketball coach of the year.
His team was toughened up, and it followed the lead of a coach who always seems in control of his emotions.
Collins never appears to panic, and his calming influence drifts down to the team. Collins has a great feel for his team's pulse, knowing when to drive his players hard and when to pull back on the reins.
"He likes to laugh with us, but we all know when he means business," said senior forward Saleem Little, a four-year varsity performer. "He does a great job of balancing discipline and fun."
Collins was a standout high school player at Schalick in the mid-'90s, and he played Division I basketball at Monmouth. His credentials as a player have surely helped him as a coach.
"We know he is a really good basketball player and that allowed us to buy into what he tells us," Little said. "He has been there before."
Collins is smart enough to know that not every player had the talent he possessed as a sharpshooting guard. He doesn't expect his players to fit into his mold, just to play hard.
Paulsboro has certainly done that.
This is a school that is known for its outstanding football and wrestling programs, although basketball had enjoyed some strong eras.
"The wrestling and football teams have had such great success, but what I found out is that there are a lot of passionate basketball fans," Collins said.
In other words, the expectations were high when he came in, and Collins still has been able to exceed them.
With Collins at the helm, basketball has surely made a big contribution to the storied Paulsboro athletic tradition. This year, the Red Raiders won the second state title in school history with a 78-48 victory over University High.
Under Collins, the Red Raiders have won five Colonial Conference Patriot Division titles and three South Jersey Group 1 championships.
He made his players believe that they were Group 1 in name only. Collins didn't want his team to use the small enrollment as an excuse. He constantly preached to his players that they could compete with anybody.
When the Red Raiders ended the season as The Inquirer's No. 1-ranked team in South Jersey, it showed that Collins' words and actions had truly made an impact.