Jessica Kern became the head women’s basketball coach at Tennessee State University in April 2016. She became the 11th head coach in program history.
“Jessica Kern is a high-energy and enthusiastic young coach who has successful experience in coaching, recruiting and playing basketball at an elite level,” commented Phillips. “The more I learned about her, the more convinced I became that she was the right fit for our university. She is committed to excellence in the classroom and on the court. A coach's daughter, with the headiness and toughness to flourish in the Big Ten and as a professional athlete, Jessica is a proven leader, proven winner and proven recruiter that will help us be successful in the OVC. Perhaps most importantly, she understands the special nature of working at Tennessee State. I look forward to welcoming her to the TSU family.”
Kern most recently served as the head women’s basketball coach at Mississippi Valley State University. During her stint, MVSU was ranked in the Top 25 of most improved Division I women’s basketball programs. She also established the Kern’s Korner Community Outreach/Mentorship Program while formulating the largest recruiting class in school history.
"It is with great excitement that I join the Tennessee State University family,” said Kern. “I consider it an honor and a privilege to bring my experience and passion for coaching to Nashville. While winning should be noted as the standard goal, please know that my ultimate priority is to teach students, nurture young women and return the spirit of a champion to such a prestigious program. Moving forward the immediate goal of the Lady Tigers Women's Basketball Program is to cultivate athletes who execute diligently on the court, mold athletes who aspire to be pillars within the Nashville community and mentor athletes who understand that academic achievement extends beyond their tenure at Tennessee State. Thank you to President Glover, AD Teresa Phillips and the committee for their vote of confidence and for trusting someone who was once just a little girl from the city of Milwaukee who dared to dream."
Prior to taking over the program at MVSU, Kern was an assistant coach at Furman University following a four-year stretch as head coach at NCAA Division II Lincoln (Pa.) University.
In 2014-15, she was named Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Coach of the Year after leading her squad to a 22-9 mark and a share of the CIAA Northern Division title.
Taking over a Lincoln program in 2011 that had won just three games the previous season, Kern coached the Lady Lions to seven wins in her first season, 10 victories the following year, and to a 12-16 mark in 2013-14 before posting a 22-9 record in her final season.
The 22 wins was a school record and carried Lincoln to a CIAA Tournament championship game appearance. She also guided Lincoln to the program's first win over a Division I opponent, a 94-86 triumph over Morgan State.
Before accepting the head coaching position at Lincoln, she served as an assistant coach and media specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, immediately following a two-year period (2008-10) as an assistant coach/recruiting coordinator at Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
A standout student-athlete as an undergrad, Kern was a four-year letterwinner at Penn State University, where she was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and team captain for the Track and Field team. After completing a stellar career at Penn State, she returned to the game of basketball and played professionally for the next seven years in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, Romania and Poland.
During the off-seasons, she taught at various Milwaukee high schools and assisted girl’s basketball and track & field teams. In addition, she established several basketball camps for under-serviced neighborhoods.
In the summer of 2007, she was appointed head coach of the Arkansas Lady Ballers in the Women's Blue Chip Basketball League, a 20-team national semi-pro league. Her up-tempo style helped propel the Lady Ballers to a victory over the Canadian national team, regional championship and national title.
A three-sport athlete in high school, Kern enjoyed one of the most successful prep careers in Milwaukee City Conference history, earning a combined 11 letters in basketball, volleyball and track & field at Washington High School. In basketball, she played in four state Final Fours and won a pair of state championships. She claimed 11 individual conference championships in track & field and was a three-time all-conference performer in volleyball.
A native of Milwaukee, Wisc., Kern graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Penn State in 2002. She has one son, Bobby Lee Collins, Jr.