A standout on the court in high school and college, Allison Nichols has always enjoyed basketball. But early on, she knew her favorite place wasn’t on the court—it was on the sidelines.
“I’ve always loved playing,” said the WildCat’s new women’s head basketball coach. “But deep down, I really just wanted to coach.”
Nichols took over the reins of the team in May, following Melissa Wiggins, who coached the WildCats for 12 seasons.
The move to Lynchburg was a homecoming for Nichols, who grew up in nearby Campbell County. Nichols is familiar with the Old Dominion Athletic Conference; while earning her undergraduate degree at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia, she was part of a team that won two regular season conference titles. After graduation, Nichols traveled to Augusta State University in Augusta, Georgia, where, in addition to earning a master’s in kinesiology and health science, she began her coaching career as the assistant women’s basketball coach.
Nichols helped lead the Lady Jaguars to a top three finish in the South Atlantic region, a Peach Belt Conference regular season co-championship, and an NCAA Tournament berth. In 2008, she joined East Carolina University’s women’s basketball program as director of basketball operations. The move to Randolph College was a chance for Nichols to return to Division III. “This is where I belong,” she said. “I believe that part of my job is to help my players meet their goals off the court. That means if they tell me they want to make the Dean’s List or become a teacher, it’s my responsibility to help them do that.”
Tina Hill, Randolph College’s athletic director, said Nichols’ experience and dedication to students will be a valuable addition to the WildCat coaching staff. “She is a great motivator and will have high expectations for our students to excel in the classroom and on the court,” she said.
The team’s first game is in November, and Nichols wasted no time getting started. She met with returning players in May when she arrived on campus and made contact with new players throughout the summer. She has already started recruiting efforts for next year.
“It takes time to build a winning program,” she said. “What is most important to me is that we are building and improving and putting a better product out there with every game. Winning or losing aside, I want Randolph to have an exciting brand of women’s basketball.”
She believes the team has what it takes to do just that. “This is a great group of players,” Nichols said. “They take their academics seriously, and they are willing to put forth the effort we need to be successful.”
Nichols hopes her local connections will help with recruitment, and she believes Randolph’s close community is a selling point in itself.
“There is something unique about this place,” she said. “To be able to bring a student on campus with their parents and be able to introduce them to the dean or the president in the Skeller or the dining hall is amazing. There is such a family atmosphere here. People don’t just say ‘hey’ to someone. They know them and genuinely care about them. It is impressive.”