Coach's Corner - A Monthly Alumni Update (September 2005)
Sept. 26, 2005
Mike Nilson distinguished himself as one of the West Coast Conference's toughest players in 1999 and 2000 as he helped lead Gonzaga to Elite Eight and Sweet Sixteen appearances in the NCAA basketball tournament. Now as the Bulldogs strength and conditioning coach, Mike imparts the same passion and commitment that helped earn him WCC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior onto the student-athletes he works with daily at Gonzaga.
His teaching doesn't end at the weights. Mike reflects the values he learned as a student-athlete (being committed, working hard and being accountable) in his approach. As a result, he prepares current student-athletes for life both on and off the playing field.
"I am very grateful to Gonzaga. My experience helped me grow in so many ways," Nilson said. "It prepared me well for my life after basketball."
After graduating with a business degree, Nilson spent a season and a half playing professional basketball in Dusseldorf, Germany, with Zag teammate Ryan Floyd.
"My goal was not to play basketball as a career. I wanted to play oversees and see the world," Nilson said. "I had a great experience."
Nilson continued his defensive impression on opposing players in Germany. He was the 2002 Defensive Player of the Year for his German league.
Mike left a great impression on many Zag fans. Not only his toughness on the court, but also his first class approach off it. Current Director of Athletic Annual Giving Paul Brown recalls the first time he met Mike.
"Mike was the first student I met on the Gonzaga campus when I started summer school 1999. I stuck my head in The Kennel to see the home of the Zags and Mike happened to be shooting jumpers. When he noticed me standing there he stopped, grabbed his basketball, walked over to me and introduced himself. What a great first impression of Gonzaga," Brown said.
In 2003 Mike came to work as Gonzaga's assistant strength and conditioning coach, and last year became the full-time head coach when Mike Chrysler resigned to pursue business interests. Nilson also is co-owner of U-District Physical Therapy, specializing in physical and sports therapy. Mike is married to full-time South Pines first grade teacher Rhiannon Nilson, a former Zag cheerleader and 2001 Gonzaga graduate.
I don't think I will ever forget Mike's last game in The Kennel. His response on that floor is so characteristic of the kind of "Zag" Mike is. In his last game, with the outcome firmly decided in our favor, Coach Few respectfully calls timeout to get some of the seniors their due applause from the grateful Zag faithful. And Mike, in what I will always remember as one of the truly great all-time Zag responses, goes to mid-court, kneels down on all fours and kisses the Bulldog. Are you kidding me? How beautiful is that?! He not only carried us to heights we never thought we would ever experience in our wildest dreams with his incredible effort in every game, but he, in my opinion, tied the most gorgeous "blue ribbon" around a fabulous career. I will never forget it as long as I live.
**Coach's Corner - Steve Hertz, former GU baseball coach and current Director of Gonzaga Athletic Relations, writes a monthly column to highlight former Zag Student-Athletes and their experiences after Gonzaga.**
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