Nichols moving on from Montini

  • Montini coach Jason Nichols expresses himself in the final seconds of the Broncos' third-place win over Lanphier with the final score 55-43 in the Class 3A girls basketball finals in Normal in March.

      Montini coach Jason Nichols expresses himself in the final seconds of the Broncos' third-place win over Lanphier with the final score 55-43 in the Class 3A girls basketball finals in Normal in March. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Montini coach Jason Nichols expresses himself during the game in the Class 3A girls basketball semifinals in Normal in March.

      Montini coach Jason Nichols expresses himself during the game in the Class 3A girls basketball semifinals in Normal in March. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 5/20/2020 2:27 PM

Jason Nichols announced Tuesday he is leaving Montini after 17 seasons as girls basketball coach to take over as the women's coach at Morton College in Cicero.

"Today was difficult trying to tell all the parents and the kids," Nichols said. "It kind of came out of nowhere to be honest. I was planning on how we could get into the gym this summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It's a good situation for my family, and for 20 years I always looked out for other families, and I need to look out for my family. And I like challenges."

Nichols has been one of the most successful coaches in Illinois, going 521-72 at Montini. The Broncos went 171-3 in conference games, with all three losses in overtime. His teams won their league title each year he coached. The Broncos also won 15 sectionals, including a streak of 14 in a row.

Montini earned four state championships under Nichols. The Broncos placed third in Class 3A in March.

Since 2006, 29 Broncos have gone on to play Division I college basketball.

"I'm proud of what has happened in 17 years there," Nichols said.

He will work for former Glenbard South and Riverside-Brookfield athletic director John Treiber, now the AD at Morton. Nichols said Treiber sought him out and recruited him to Morton.

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Nichols said it was a difficult decision to leave Montini, especially his players. He remains in regular contact with many of his former players.

"For these kids to be a part of that, that was my whole purpose of coaching was to allow them to be in big games, big tournaments with big crowds for big experiences that they can still talk about," he said. "And I've accomplished that. It was accomplished for them because I wanted them to be happy."

Nichols maintains a strong relationship with many of his former players, several of whom were eager to talk about him.

"Being a former player of his, I can just say from my own experience he was one of the best coaches, if not the best coach, I've ever played for," said Lea Kerstein, who just graduated from Alabama-Birmingham after four seasons on the team there. "I really appreciated how honest he was. He always wanted to do what was best for us. He always had girls with a winning mentality, and that's really who he attracted.

"We all were just so blessed to play for him. We loved him. We still talk to him all the time."

"He's a legend, first of all," added 2019 Montini graduate Sam Mitchell, also now playing at UAB. "He's leaving a place that he made special. ... I think this next step for him is going to be huge. It's going to be so great for him."

Nichols is excited about the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level.

"It's a new challenge. It's going to be different. It's something fresh. It's different and I look forward to building that program," Nichols said. "I'm just going to miss the kids. I have a ton of great relationships with these kids."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Including his three seasons at Trinity, Nichols departs high school basketball with 590 victories. He leaves a talented team at Montini that returns five of the six sophomores who played a key role in this year's run to the state finals.

"I'm happy for him," said Mitchell, adding she often calls Nichols to ask for advice. "He left that place good. He did what he needed to do all the time, and he's amazing at what he does."

"It's going to be weird hearing about Montini basketball and Jason Nichols not be a part of it," Kerstein said.

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