Bob Nicol: To Retire or not to Retire—that is the Question

  • Written by Derek Johnson
Kurt Melton sat down on a metal folding chair and smiled. The first-year Woodinville coach was in a grand mood. His team had just beaten Newport. He was asked about assistant coach Bob Nicol.
“Bob’s got a really good knowledge of the game,” Melton said. “He understands basketball. He has played a lot of it, and he has coached a lot of it. If you think about the number of kids he has coached and has seen come through, his experience is invaluable.”
66-year old Bob Nicol has spent twenty years at Woodinville as an assistant coach. He has seen kids and head coaches come and go.
bobBob Nicol today. (Courtesy photo)“The biggest thing for me is the kids,” Nicol says. “I tell Kurt that the reason I keep doing this is the kids. You develop special bonds with them. And with [fellow assistants] Jack Snedaker and Cory Smith. I keep saying, shoot, what else am I going to do in the winter?”
Raised on Orcas Island, Nicol didn’t play organized basketball until his freshman year of high school. At 5’2” and 100 pounds, he relied on quickness to be competitive.
He played for Western Washington University. In his junior year, the team finished fifth in the NAIA National Championship. As a senior, Nicol set a school record for assists in a season.
In the following years, the game of basketball took him to exotic ports of call. Playing for Brewster Packing, he toured Taiwan. Brewster won the William Jones Cup, playing against the Korean Army team and Chinese National team.
Nicol later played and coached in Australia for three years. “There are times I pinched myself,” he said. “As a kid from Orcas Island, how did I end up in Australia? How did I end up in Taiwan?  Basketball has given me a lot of experiences.”
One of his key life lessons came from his time Down Under.
“The Australian people, who I loved,” Nicol said. “As an American, you go down there and you’re thinking we’ve got to win and this is life and death! And the Aussies, when they play they go after it hard. But when it’s over they go have a beer and laugh about it. I like their attitude. I remember losing a game in college that we should have won, and I didn’t speak with anyone for two days. Looking back I think, what was wrong with me?”
After Nicol returned to the Seattle area, he got married. He and his wife Janine raised three boys: Tyler, Cory, and Tanner. All three would play select basketball and at Woodinville High School.
WP 20180222 20 45 37 ProBob Nicol playing for Western Washington University in the 1970s. (Courtesy photo)Amid all this, Falcon coach Steve Johnson asked Nicol to join his staff in 1998.
“They asked if I wanted to help,” Nicol said. “And I’ve been here ever since.”
His biggest highlight was in 2015, when Mark Folsom was in his third year as head coach. The Falcons upset Issaquah in the Kingco 4A Championship Game. This led to Woodinville’s first ever trip the State Tourney. A win over Kentwood, and the emotional aftermath in the Tacoma Dome locker room, were things Nicol will never forget.
“Mark Folsom was a great coach to work for, we had a great relationship,” Nicol said. “Obviously Tony Miller was special. Tony was the hardest-working kid we’ve ever had. Everything he got he deserved. And those other seniors... Ryan Gregor, Zach Oates and Lance Coomar -- his sister plays for the girls’ team right now. She plays a similar style.  We also had a kid from Redmond who moved over here, Demetri Ilias.  He worked his tail off and was a great motivator. It was a special group.”
Nicol was asked if he had any good Mark Folsom stories. “None that I could tell you,” he said with a hearty laugh.
When pressed, he relented with one from a holiday tournament, in December 2015. 
“He’ll kill me for this one,” Nicol said. “We had a trip to South Dakota, just an awesome trip. Mark and I ended up rooming together. He doesn’t see that well without his glasses or contacts. He got up in the middle of the night and was in his underwear. He got confused, and instead of going through the bathroom door, he went out the hallway door. The door locked behind him. He didn’t want to wake me up, I don’t know why. So he went down to the lobby in his underwear to get another key.”
When Folsom stepped down in 2016, Greg Turcott coached Woodinville for one challenging season.
“I worked with [Falcons] Ethan Tarbett and Michael Roth and had known them for so long,” Nicol said. “After they graduated, I started thinking `Aw… maybe I’ll retire now.’
When Kurt Melton arrived from Wisconsin last summer to take over the program, Nicol stayed long enough to help the transition. 
“But then I got hooked in with Cage Schenck, he’s such a great kid,” Nicol said of the sophomore point guard. “I got hooked in with him and the rest of that sophomore class.
“And then I thought, `Aw… now I’ve got to coach another three years.”  

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