Niecee Nelson hired by IPFW


The world of coaching can cover many different cities and regions. Unlike players, who choose to attend a certain school and are given a specific amount of eligibility, coaches have carved out a career that can take them to any number of locations.

This is certainly the case for Niecee Nelson, who was an assistant coach for the University of San Diego women’s basketball team for the past 11 seasons before recently being hired as the head coach of the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) Mastodons.

Nelson’s coaching journey has bounced her around several different locations. She landed her first job in 2002 as a graduate assistant for the University of Wyoming, where she received a Master of Science degree in kinesiology. After spending two seasons in Wyoming, the well-traveled Nelson made the move to Fort Wayne and got a job as an assistant coach at IPFW, the school that has now provided her first head coaching gig.

Her first stint at IPFW was short lived, as Nelson bolted for San Diego after just one year with the Mastodons.

Nelson is looking to bring many of the lessons she’s learned at USD to Fort Wayne, starting mainly with a commitment to academics and building futures for her players.

“I think a big philosophy that I’ve taken in my coaching career is that building those relationships with the student athletes and caring about them more in their academics and preparing them for their future,” Nelson said. “That’s how you get them to buy in, and trust you, and build trusting relationships. They play for you and work hard for you that way.”

Niecee Nelson was hired by the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons after working as an assistant coach at USD since 2005. Photo Courtesy of USD Toreros

Niecee Nelson was hired by the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne Mastodons after working as an assistant coach at USD since 2005. Photo Courtesy of USD Toreros

Given the recent fortunes of the IPFW program, Nelson appears to have her work cut out for her. The Mastodons went 7-23 in the 2015-16 season and managed only three conference wins in the Summit League, a mid-major Division I conference that has been dominated by the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in recent years. IPFW will also lose its leading scorer from last season to graduation.

Despite the uphill battle that lies ahead, Nelson has high hopes for the squad she is taking over. When asked about her fondest memories as a Torero assistant, Nelson complimented the people that she worked with.

“It’s the people that I got to work with, and the players that I got to coach, it’s all the relationships that I built over those 11 years that are memories that I’ll take with me,” Nelson said. “It was probably to date one of the best places to work. The players that we brought in and had there just were absolutely amazing people.”

During her 11 years at Alcala Park, one of Nelson’s primary responsibilities was developing the team’s backcourt players. As USD’s offensive coordinator, her efforts led to huge success for many Torero guards. Nelson was instrumental to the careers of guards Dominique Conners, the program’s all-time leading scorer, and Amanda Rego, the only women’s basketball player in school history to win WCC Player of the Year.

Off the court, Nelson’s work at USD included being the academic coordinator and the person in charge of ordering equipment. In addition, she was part of the recruiting process alongside head coach Cindy Fisher and created individual workouts for several of the players. Recruiting at IPFW will not be a new job for Nelson, as she was promoted to recruiting director within months of arriving at the USD campus in 2004.

In her 11 years with the Toreros, Nelson’s teams posted a collective 222-124 record and advanced to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in each of the last five seasons. She will be the 14th head coach in the 40 year history of the IPFW program.

Back in her own college days, Nelson was a basketball player at Concordia University in Portland, OR. She served as a captain twice and was also twice named to the all-conference team. If she is able to use her own success as a player and assistant coach as a way to teach the current Mastodon players, we could see IPFW make a turnaround similar to the one that USD’s women’s team made upon Nelson’s arrival 11 years ago.