Since arriving at Johns Hopkins in 1986, Bill Nelson has established Johns Hopkins men's basketball as one of the top Division III programs in the country. The winningest coach in program history, the 2014-15 season marked his 29th season with the Blue Jays. He has led Hopkins to a 472-290 (.619) record during his tenure at Homewood and his all-time record stands at 577-343 (.627) in 3435years as a head coach. Nelson has led 10 teams to the NCAA tournament, including a streak of five consecutive appearances from 1990 through 1994, while at Hopkins. In April 2015, he was inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame.
The 2014-15 season was one of the most successful in school history as the Blue Jays won a school-record 25 games, including a record 17-game win streak, and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16. Hopkins turned in a 16-2 conference slate before falling in the Centennial Championship game. The honors rolled in following the season as Nelson earned Coach of the Year honors from the Centennial Conference, NABC (Mid-Atlantic), D3hoops.com (Mid-Atlantic) and ECAC (South). In addition, senior George Bugarinovic was named the program's first Jostens Trophy Winner, given to an outstanding NCAA Division III men's and women's basketball player who excels on the floor, in the classroom and in the community.The Blue Jays broke the school record with just 12.03 turnovers per game while their 71.1 points per game were the most by a JHU team since 2006-07. Hopkins also held its opponents below 60 points per game (59.8) for just the fifth time in school history.
Nelson led the 2013-14 Blue Jays to a 17-11 record as well as the program's third Centennial Conference Championship and 10th NCAA Tournament appearance. The Blue Jays, picked to finish fourth in the league in the preseason poll, went 12-6 in the league to finish third. Hopkins then defeated second-seeded F&M and top-seeded Dickinson to win the CC title. The Blue Jays' 17 wins in 2013-14 were the most since the 2006-07 squad won a then school-record 24 games. The Jays' set school records for fewest total turnovers (345) and fewest turnovers per game (12.32) while ranking second in the CC in turnovers per game and third in turnover margin (1.4). Hopkins also ranked second in the league in assists per game (14.1), assist/turnover ratio (1.8), steals per game (7.2), blocked per game (4.5).
Nelson guided the Blue Jays to a 16-10 record in 2012-13, including a 12-6 mark in the conference to finish third in the Centennial Conference. Hopkins won 10 of 12 games in a four-week span to put itself in contention for first place in the league. Sophomores George Bugarinovic and Jimmy Hammer went on to earn All-Centennial Conference honors.
Nelson earned Centennial Conference Coach of the Year honors in 2011-12 after leading the Blue Jays to a surprising 15-11 overall record and a tie for second-place in the Centennial Conference standings. Hopkins had been picked to finish ninth in the 10-team league in a preseason poll of the conference's coaches and Sports Information Directors. Bugarinovic and sophomore Daniel Corbett would go on to earn All-Centennial Conference honors. Nelson opened the season with a milestone win on November 15, 2011 as the Blue Jays beat the host Goucher Gophers, 54-49. The win was the 400th for Nelson as the head coach at JHU.
Nelson reached the quarter century mark at Johns Hopkins in 2010-11 and his 31st season overall as a head coach. He earned his 500th career win in exciting fashion on January 4 as the Blue Jays rallied from a nine-point deficit in the final 61 seconds of regulation to force overtime before going on to defeat Messiah, 65-52. He became the 29th coach in NCAA Division III history to reach the milestone.
The 2009-10 season marked the Blue Jays' second straight 12-13 season as Hopkins just missed out on a Centennial Conference Tournament berth. The season was highlighted by a third place finish in the Pride of Maryland Championship, championship game appearances in the Holiday Inn Airport Tournament and the Blue Jay Invitational and a win over 15th-ranked Franklin & Marshall on the road.
In 2008-09, Hopkins started out the season 11-5 before finishing 12-13. Senior Collin Kamm finished his career as one of just four players in program history with 500 career points, 200 career assists and 100 career steals.
Despite graduating five seniors that accounted for over 4,000 points and 2,000 rebounds, Nelson guided the Blue Jays to their 13th consecutive winning season and the Centennial Conference Tournament in 2007-08. Hopkins went 16-10 overall last season with a 12-6 mark in the conference.
The 2006-07 season was the most successful in school history as Nelson led the Blue Jays to a 24-5 record, the 2007 Centennial Conference title and a trip to the NCAAs. The 24 wins are a school record as the season began with a nine-game win streak. The Blue Jays went 15-3 in the Centennial Conference on the way to both the regular season and tournament titles. Hopkins also took home the second annual Provident Bank Pride of Maryland Championship in November.
Some of Nelson's earliest seasons yielded his best results. The 1991-92 Hopkins squad finished 20-8 and received its first-ever national ranking, climbing as high as No. 13 in the national poll. The previous year, the Blue Jays finished with a 19-10 mark, won their first Middle Atlantic Conference Southern Division Championship since 1974 and advanced to the NCAA Second Round. In 1989-90, Hopkins went 20-8 and reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament by defeating FDU-Madison and Franklin & Marshall.
More recently, Nelson led the 1998-99 team to a tie for the then-school record for wins with a 21-6 mark, a Centennial Conference Championship and an appearance in the NCAA tournament. The following season, the Blue Jays went 18-9 and advanced to the ECAC South Tournament Semifinals, and in 2000-01 and 2001-02 Hopkins enjoyed competitive 15-9 seasons. In 2002-03 Hopkins went 19-7 and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals.
The 2003-04 season saw a young Blue Jay team post a 17-10 record and make an appearance in the Centennial Conference finals and the ECAC South Quarterfinals. His 2004-05 Blue Jays finished 14-11, notching the program's 10th consecutive winning season. In 2005-06, he guided Hopkins to an 18-8 record and a berth in the Centennial Conference Tournament Championship game. Nelson has led Hopkins to winning records in all but two of his 22 campaigns at Homewood.
During his tenure at Hopkins, Nelson has coached numerous all-conference and all-region players. Matt Griffin, a 2007 graduate, was named a finalist for the Jostens Trophy. He has coached seven Academic All-Americans, including two-time selections Andy Enfield and Tim McCarty. Enfield, a 1991 graduate, still holds the NCAA Division III career free throw percentage record (92.5%). Additionally, Nelson coached the Centennial Conference Players of the Year from 1997 through 1999 and four of his players have earned NCAA Postgraduate Scholarships since 1990. No other men's basketball program in the nation at any level had more NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipients than the Blue Jays' four in the 1990's.
Eight of Nelson's former players have been inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame, including 2015 inductee Steve Adams, a 2003 graduate.
Prior to arriving at Hopkins, Nelson had successful tenures at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Nazareth College. Two of his Nazareth squads earned NCAA tournament bids and the 1985-86 team finished 23-5 and ranked seventh in the final D-III poll. In 1983-84, Nelson was selected as the Eastern Region Coach of the Year, guiding Nazareth to a 22-6 record and a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals. While at Nazareth, Nelson coached Jeff Van Gundy, who coached in the NBA for 11 seasons.
Nelson attended the State University of New York at Brockport, earning a bachelor's degree in 1965, and went on to receive a master's degree from the University of Oregon. Nelson and his wife, Margaret, live in Ellicott City. They have two daughters, Laura and Katie. Laura is a special education teacher in the Baltimore City School District. Katie, a 2006 graduate of the University of Massachusetts and four-year letterwinner for the UMass women's basketball team, is an assistant coach for the Hopkins women's basketball team.
Updated April 2015