BALTIMORE, MD – Bill Nelson, the longtime head coach of the Johns Hopkins men’s basketball team, announced today that he will retire at the end of the current academic year. The winningest coach in program history, Nelson will step down on June 30 after 31 years with the Blue Jays. Johns Hopkins will conduct a national search for his successor.
“With mixed emotions, I have decided to retire as the head men’s basketball coach at Johns Hopkins University,” said Nelson. “My wife, Margaret, and our daughters, Laura and Katie, have called Hopkins our second home for the last 31 years. As I’ve often said, I have lived my dream and much more. Coaching at the college level for 49 years (RIT-15, Nazareth-3, Johns Hopkins-31) has been a dream come true.”
Nelson led Hopkins to 501 victories, 25 winning seasons, three Centennial Conference Championships and 10 NCAA Tournament appearances during his tenure at Homewood. The 15th head coach in the history of the program, he became the winningest coach on November 23, 1991 – just two games into his sixth season. Nelson guided the Blue Jays to their first-ever 20-win season and just their second NCAA Tournament appearance in his fourth season. It was the first of five straight NCAA trips for Hopkins.
“To be easily the most identifiable person in a program that is nearly 100 years old says as much about the person that is Bill Nelson as it does about the success he enjoyed as our head men’s basketball coach,” stated Johns Hopkins Director of Athletics and Recreation Alanna Shanahan. “Yes, he built a program that produced victories and championships, but he also built a family of Blue Jay basketball players who continue to be a vibrant part of the program and University long after they’ve graduated. We have been fortunate to have Bill Nelson as our men’s basketball coach and we are truly thankful to him for a career of service to Johns Hopkins University.”
Nelson has coached 71 all-conference (Centennial, UAA, MAC) selections, three Centennial Conference Players of the Year, two All-Americans and one Jostens Trophy winner during his time at Hopkins. Eight of his players have been inducted into the Johns Hopkins Athletic Hall of Fame and Nelson joined that prestigious group in 2015. He has twice been named the Centennial Conference and NABC Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year.
During Nelson’s time in Baltimore, Hopkins has produced 20 CoSIDA Academic All-District honorees, seven CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and five NCAA Postgraduate Scholars. Among the many who excelled on and off the court are Andy Enfield ’91 and George Bugarinovic ’15. Enfield, the head coach at the University of Southern California, was an NABC All-American, a two-time Academic All-American and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholar. Bugarinovic, also an Academic All-American and an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship recipient, earned the school and conference’s first Jostens Trophy award in 2015. As a senior, he was also a finalist for the prestigious Walter Byers Postgraduate Scholarship.
“I’ve had the opportunity to coach some amazing young men who not only made a name for themselves on the court, but also have been extremely successful upon graduation in a number of different fields, including the coaching profession. My hope was always that our players would have a valuable and positive four-year experience at Hopkins, not only on the hardwood but also in the classroom and socially. I think we have succeeded.”
A 1965 graduate of the State University of New York at Brockport, Nelson went on to earn his master’s degree from the University of Oregon. He began his coaching career at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where he spent 12 seasons as an assistant before taking over as the head coach in 1980. After 15 years with the Tigers, Nelson moved to Nazareth, where he spent three years as the head coach. At Nazareth, he coached Jeff Van Gundy, who went on to coach the NBA’s New York Knicks and Houston Rockets and is currently a broadcaster at ESPN.
In 1986, Nelson made the move to Baltimore and Johns Hopkins. In 37 years as a head coach, Nelson amassed a record of 606-365 (.624), including a 501-312 (.616) mark at Johns Hopkins, and he ranks 17th in NCAA Division III history in career wins.