Former Toledo Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Nichols, who led the Rockets for 22 seasons and posted the most victories of any basketball coach in the Mid-American Conference, died March 30 at age 82.Nichols’ name is synonymous with Toledo Rockets basketball excellence. He earned three varsity letters in basketball at Toledo as a player from 1950 to 1953, and was assistant basketball coach for two seasons before serving as head basketball coach from 1965 to 1987.
His lifetime record at Toledo was 376-212 and still ranks today as the most wins by any basketball coach in Mid-American Conference history. Nichols led the Rockets to 20 consecutive winning seasons from 1965-66 through 1984-85. His 1966-67 squad posted a 23-2 record, the best mark in school history, and was ranked No. 11 in the nation in the final UPI poll that season.
“Saturday was truly a sad day for The University of Toledo,” said UT President Lloyd Jacobs. “Coach Nichols’ legacy transcends athletics and his men’s basketball program was one that produced leaders both on and off the court. We will truly miss everything he stood for and what he meant to our University.”
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Coach Nichols and are grateful for all he did for our men’s basketball program,” said UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien. “He made his home in the Toledo community and remained a strong supporter of our programs. His legacy is one that will remain in our memories forever.”
“We lost the father of Toledo basketball Saturday,” UT Head Men’s Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk said. “Coach Nichols is the definition of a true Rocket. He is humble, gracious and a man of integrity. Since coming to Toledo three years ago, coach has been a friend, a mentor and an inspiration.”
During his coaching career, Nichols led the Rockets to the NCAA Tournament in 1967, 1979 and 1980. The 1979 squad advanced to the Sweet 16 with a win over Big Ten Champion Iowa before falling to Notre Dame. Nichols also coached six Academic-All Americans and 18 Academic All-MAC honorees.
His teams earned five MAC titles, and he coached five MAC Players of the Year. Nichols also had a 5-0 record against Big Ten teams from 1976 to 1979, including wins over Michigan (twice), Ohio State, Indiana and Iowa. The victory over Indiana came in the inaugural game in Savage Arena, as Toledo upset the defending national champion Hoosiers, 59-57, snapping their 33-game win streak.
Nichols was the only four-time winner of the Ohio College Coach of the Year Award (1967, 1972, 1979, 1980). The Sylvania, Ohio, resident was a member of the Toledo Varsity T Hall of Fame and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. In 2012, he was inducted into the Mid-American Conference Hall of Fame. In addition, the basketball floor in Savage Arena was named in his honor in 2008.
Raised in Jackson, Mich., Nichols received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from UT in 1953 and 1960, respectively.
Visitation will take place Thursday, April 4, from 2 to 8 p.m. at Walker Funeral Home, 5155 W. Sylvania Ave., Toledo. The funeral will be held Friday, April 5, at 11 a.m. at Most Blessed Sacrament Parish, 2240 Castlewood Drive, Toledo.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Bob and Barbara Nichols Scholarship Fund through the UT Foundation.