This week in his statistics class, Memorial High School math teacher Steve Collins taught his students about the binomial distribution formula. Full of variables and exponents, the formula is used to determine the probability of a two-option outcome: heads or tails, pass or fail, or win or lose.
For Collins, the statistics lessons reach much farther than the walls of his classroom, which he has experienced first-hand during his 24 years as head coach of the Memorial boys basketball team.
“There’s a lot of stats in basketball, there’s almost too many numbers,” Collins said, laughing. “I believe there is a way you think and process things that’s similar in both mathematics and basketball.”
While statistics is not the driving force behind Collins’ coaching methods, his own coaching stats represent his success: He has a career record of 445-122, led teams to state championships victories in 2005, 2009, and 2011, and state championship runners-up in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. Collins is also a two-time winner of the State Coach of the Year.
Before coaching, Collins played basketball at Madison East High School and was captain of the Lawrence University men’s basketball team. He received his master’s degree at Dartmouth College before coming to Memorial.
Currently, he’s recognized by fans for his active and animated sideline energy and many superstitions, which range from McDonald’s meals to lucky outfits. In February, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) announced Collins will be inducted into its 2022 Hall of Fame in honor of his multi-decade career.
“I am only like 10 percent of the equation that’s gotten me here,” Collins said. “I’ve had wonderful coaching staff, great kids, and a supportive community. I just move the pieces around, it’s the players that do all the work.”
His students and players alike find success after graduation, including famed Memorial alum Wesley Matthews, who currently plays for the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Seeing your students succeed is one of the reasons you get into teaching. It’s not to buy a yacht, it’s to hopefully make a little difference in the world,” Collins said. “When you can see that, that’s when the smiles come.”
With Memorial’s basketball season recently over, Collins is continuing his coaching experience by covering the 2022 Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s State Boys Basketball Championship March 17-19 for ESPN Madison Radio. He’s also the CEO of Teach Hoops, a tools and training membership organization for basketball coaches.
While no statistics formula can perfectly predict future basketball seasons, Collins said that recognitions like the WBCA Hall of Fame are an honor that he looks forward to celebrating.
“There have been a lot of storybook moments. The hard part is, when you’re in the middle of the storm, you don’t have time to reflect, you’re just trying to steer the ship in the right direction,” Collins said. “At some point, when I take a deep breath and look back, that will be enjoyable.”