Next to Forest Lake Junior High’s athletic director, Sherri Alm, a young Collin Authier leaned back on the bleachers where fans had sat watching the kids play basketball not long before. The two talked for hours about everything under the sun, sitting in that gym until 1 a.m.
Alm looked at Authier, absorbing all that had been said. Finally, she said, “You know, I always thought you’d be a good coach.” She continued and asked him to come back to the school and teach her seventh and eighth grade teams.
“I did learn somewhat early that guys that look like me don’t play basketball for very long,” Authier paused with a laugh. “I’m 5 feet 10 inches [tall]. I’m slow. I’m not athletic. Those people don’t have a successful basketball career more often than not.”
But during that Christmas break in 2005, Authier’s life found its rightful path: being a basketball coach.
“I found a passion and really just kind of drove it,” he explained. “I had to hit rock bottom in order to find it.”
In 2008, he received a call about a graduate assistant position with the Augustana basketball program. For 10 of the last 13 years, the Augustana athletic department is where he’s found his niche, going from graduate assistant to assistant coach.
When the position for associate head coach opened up earlier this year, Authier was the no-brainer choice to fill the space.
“Because Authier has been with us so long, he’s very well rounded,” head coach Tom Billeter said. “[He has a] good work ethic and loyalty. He’s a doer. He doesn’t just sit back. He always does what he’s supposed to do better than what was supposed to be done.”
When Authier first arrived at Augustana, he didn’t expect to stay for so long. He said he’s always wanted to coach at every level. He’s done both Division III and Division II, and someday, he still wants to coach Division I.
Aside from coaching, Authier said there isn’t much else he puts effort into.
“I don’t have very many hobbies — it’s coaching,” he said. “I try to golf. I’m awful at it. I try to fish. I never catch anything. What I really enjoy is spending time with people.”
But for him, it’s anything but just a job.
“I still haven’t worked,” Authier said. “I’m sitting here, I’m 35 years old, and I don’t think I’ve worked yet a day in my life. I don’t feel like what I do is work. I do it at night. It’s a hobby. It’s what I love to do.”
And his favorite person to dedicate his time to is his wife, Amber. He knew that she was the one six weeks into their relationship.
“She was okay with me being gone for a month recruiting and then coming back as if nothing had changed,” he said. “That to me was the biggest testament of our relationship.”
The couple was married in May 2018 in Jamaica. Today, Amber is getting a degree at USD, and Authier is doing his best to support her and their two dogs, Murphy and Roxie.
“She has been so incredibly supportive of me in my coaching career that, when this opportunity came up for her, it was a no brainer,” Authier said. “It was a time when I put everything aside and told her that I would do whatever I need to support her.”
Of course, Authier said he does everything he can to support his players, too. And Amber chips in sometimes, making her famous cookies.
“He’s a great coach, obviously, but as a person, that’s where he thrives,” said senior shooting guard Matt Cartwright with a big grin. “He cares about you off the court more than he does about you on the court in the sense that he wants you to strive in your life not just as a player.”
Cartwright also said he loves to spend time with Authier in his office.
“If you go to his office once a week, you’re not going to talk about what you do right and wrong on the court,” Cartwright said. “You’re going to talk about how your life is going, relationships with girls, family relationships. He knows everything about you.”
The relationships Authier builds on campus are some of his favorite parts of Augustana.
“I just never would have thought that I would make this my home,” Authier said. “I never thought I’d fall in love with Augustana, the community, as much as I did”
Although Authier is sticking with Augustana for now, Billeter said he’s excited to see where the associate coach will go.
“I’d love to see him become a head coach of a program,” Billeter said. “Really, my hope for him is that he just continues to enjoy what he’s doing. Whatever he wants in the future, I hope he gets it because he deserves it.”
A lot has changed since his first few years coaching college basketball. When Authier coached at the DIII program Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, they competed in Iowa against DI University of Iowa.
He invited everyone he could, and the game went so terribly that he felt the need to apologize to everyone.
“We were like a fourth grade team playing an NBA team,” Authier said. “We lost by like 55 points.”
So a few years later at Augie, when he saw the exhibition game scheduled for the 2015 season, he was terrified, telling Billeter about his last experience with the Iowa team.
But this time, it was different.
During the last play of the game, he watched his boys skid across the floor. They won with a buzzer beater.
As Authier and Billeter walked back up the ramp, Authier thought back to his life just two years prior. He’d come so far.
Billeter paused. “Huh. Who would have thought that?”
Authier looked at his head coach. “Yeah. That was something.”
And together they disappeared into the tunnel.