UIC’s Collins to step down before season

Illinois-Chicago men’s basketball coach Jimmy Collins is stepping down at the end of August.

Collins, 62, has spent the past 14 seasons as the Flames head coach and was 218-208 at the helm — and also led UIC to its first three NCAA tournament berths in school history.

Last season, UIC finished 8-22 overall and 3-15 in the Horizon League.

"It is difficult to leave UIC and all the great student-athletes who are returning,” Collins said in a statement on Tuesday night. "After much introspection, I feel it is my time to enjoy retirement and have more time with my family."

It’s strange timing for a decision in the middle of the important July recruiting period.

Athletic director Jim Schmidt said he will conduct a national search for a replacement. Assistant coach Tracy Dildy would have had a shot at replacing Collins, but Dildy left earlier this month to become the head coach at Chicago State.

Collins, the school’s all-time wins leader, missed the final 19 games of the 2006-07 season after undergoing a procedure to repair an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

He was chosen as Midwestern Collegiate Conference co-coach of the year after his first season with the Flames. He led them to the NCAA tournament in 1998, 2002 and 2004 and had four 20-win seasons at UIC.

Collins, who played on New Mexico State’s 1970 Final Four team, began his coaching career as an assistant to Lou Henson at Illinois for 13 years. Henson coached Collins in college.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.