The Hanover College community mourns after the passing of former athletic director and men's basketball coach John Collier '51. Collier died Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018, in Hanover, Ind.
Collier served Hanover from 1966-91, including 22 seasons as men's basketball coach and 25 years as men's athletic director. He is the namesake of Collier Arena, located in the Horner Health and Recreation Center, and the men's basketball program's mental attitude award. He is also the originator of the long-running Hanover College Boys' Basketball Camp.
"Coach Collier was the person most responsible for establishing the basketball tradition we have enjoyed at Hanover for the last 50-plus years," said current Hanover men's basketball coach Jon Miller '97. "He was known and respected across the state of Indiana. So many people had either seen his teams play or attended his legendary basketball camp on campus."
Collier was born in Guilford, Ind. on March 23, 1926. A standout athlete, he graduated from Guilford High School in 1944 as the school's two-time most valuable player and career scoring leader. Following high school, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and, after an honorable discharge, enrolled at Hanover.
While at the College, he started every game during his four-year career with the basketball squad. He also served as team captain, was named most valuable player as a junior, and helped the program earn its first Hoosier Collegiate Conference championship.
After graduating from Hanover in 1951, he embarked on a four-decade coaching career that featured more than 600 victories and numerous honors.
Collier compiled a 255-92 record in 15 seasons as the basketball coach at Vevay (Ind.) High School (1951-56) and Brookville (Ind.) High School (1956-66), including seven sectional titles and one regional crown. In 1966, he returned to the College as an assistant professor of physical education and head coach of the men's basketball team.
In his first campaign at the helm, the Panthers finished with a 19-9 record – the best mark in school history to that point. He eventually amassed a 388-242 record with the program, including nine conference championships and seven appearances in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament.
In 1967, he launched the Hanover College Boys' Basketball Camp. The camp, which celebrated its 52nd year last summer, has served more than 40,000 youths since its inception.
Collier amassed numerous awards during his career. He was selected the NAIA national coach of the year in 1974 and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979. He represented the NAIA during a 1985 tour of the African continent to teach the game of basketball. Four years later, he was enshrined as a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame. He became a charter member of the Hanover Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 and was inducted into the East Central (Ind.) Athletic Hall of Fame in 2015.
He was also bestowed the honor of Sagamore of the Wabash by then-Indiana Gov. Otis Bowen and named a Kentucky Colonel by then-Gov. Julian Carroll.
Miller added, "Coach won a lot of games, but even more importantly he created an incredible legacy with the quality of his former players. Many of them have shared with me that the mentorship he provided and the values he emphasized played a big role in so many of them becoming the high-quality, high-character, successful men they are today."
He is survived by his wife of 66 years, Dorothy Jean Matson Collier '54; son, John M. Collier, and his wife, Jody; son, Steve L. Collier, and his wife, Mallory; son, David R. Collier; son, Pat Collier, and his wife, Phyllis; brother, Robert Collier, and his wife, Julianne. In addition, he had seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and other relatives.