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Legendary Toledo coach Bob Nichols passes away at 82

The MAC's winningest basketball coach led the Rockets to four MAC regular season titles and three tournament appearances in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

Toledo's Savage Arena is the home of Bob Nichols Court, dedicated in his name in 2008.
Toledo's Savage Arena is the home of Bob Nichols Court, dedicated in his name in 2008.
JonRidinger / Wikimedia Commons

A bit of sad news as Bob Nichols died suddenly this weekend.

In his 22 year career, Nichols won 377 games with the Toledo Rockets, most by any MAC team in history. (By comparison, Charlie Coles won 355.) He led Toledo to three NCAA tournaments (1967, 1979, 1980), reaching the Sweet 16 in '79. In 2008 the newly renovated Savage Arena had the basketball court renamed in his honor. Prior to coaching he also played for the Rockets in the '50s, lettering three times. After serving in the Army and some other jobs, he coached Central Catholic High School in Toledo before becoming a Bowling Green assistant and finally landing with Toledo in the early 60s.

It's safe to say that Steve Mix was his first great player, playing 13 seasons in the NBA, and several other followed. Most of Toledo's best players were Bob Nichols disciples: Mix, Ken Epperson, Stan Joplin, Harvey Knuckles and Larry Cole, to name a few.

The once-dormant MAC Hall of Fame included Nichols in their 2012 induction class. Also for his coaching work at Central Catholic, he was put into the Toledo City League Hall of Fame in 2011.

I was slightly too young to remember any of Nichols' teams. My first games were under his successor Jay Eck, which may explain a lot. But even I can understand the impact that Nichols had on MAC basketball. Ultimately in 1987 he resigned due to a lack of success, because nobody's perfect. From what I've read, they had difficulty landing some of the better local players. But even after stepping aside, he remained close to the program, attending games and living in Toledo. And before that, he was still able to put together unmatched success in the conference.