Seymour coach reflects on 10 special years with Owls basketball

Jeff Nicholson has lived in Seymour for 18 years, and he has been associated with the Seymour basketball program in some way, shape or form for 10 of those years.

On Jan. 1, Nicholson left Seymour for Houston, Texas. It was a move Nicholson had known about for a few months, but still, leaving was a bittersweet moment for him.

Nicholson is heading to the Lone Star State to be with his 16-year-old son, who has been over there for a few months now. Tylan Nicholson is a sophomore baseball player, and Jeff didn’t want to miss one plate appearance going forward.

“I couldn’t go the next couple years without seeing that,” he said.

Nicholson is taking a lot of great memories with him to Houston.

Before coaching in Seymour, Nicholson was a manager under Ed DeChellis at East Tennessee State, he was an assistant at Juniata College in Huntington, Pennsylvania, and he worked under Tony Bennett when he coached at Scottsburg.

With plenty of coaching background, Nicholson got to take over the Seymour Swish travel basketball program, and he also coached eighth grade basketball at Seymour Middle School before moving up to the high school under current head coach Kirk Manns.

“Just tried to take some stuff off the plate of coach Manns and help in any way I could,” Nicholson said.

After 10 years of coaching Owls hoops, Nicholson can’t think of just one specific game or moment that stands out to him. He joked that as a coach, the losses tend to stick with you more than the wins.

Instead, it was the relationships that stood out to Nicholson the most.

“First and foremost, the people,” he said. “From coach Manns and that entire basketball staff, and then Brandon Harpe and Jeremy Richey amongst many other friends that I’ve met just because of athletics in general, but the people.”

Manns is the Seymour varsity head coach and athletic director at Seymour, Richey is the head baseball coach for the Owls and Harpe is the superintendent. Those three were some of Nicholson’s closest friends.

“I’m a better man because of spending time with Brandon Harpe, Jeremy Richey and Kirk Manns,” Nicholson said. “Seymour is fortunate to have guys like that in leadership roles. They work daily to produce high-character men.”

What Nicholson enjoyed about coaching kids in the Seymour Swish program is seeing how much they grow over the years, and then seeing them go on to play at the high school level.

The most recent example of that is Seymour sophomores Brady Harpe, Michael Brooks and Jaylan Johnson. Nicholson coached all three of them when they were younger, and now, he’s seeing them play varsity minutes for the Owls.

Johnson averages 10.7 points per game as a starter, while Harpe and Brooks both contribute off the bench.

“Just continuing to see the progress. The hardest things about leaving is there are three kids, among many others, but Brady Harpe, Michael Brooks and Jaylan Johnson, who are all dressing varsity,” Nicholson said. “I coached those kids in Swish, and I always thought that I’d be there for their senior night.”

If all goes right, Nicholson will come back to Seymour to see some of the players he coached be honored at their senior night in a couple of years.

“Just seeing how they’ve grown, not just as players because coach Manns will get that out of them, but to see them grow as young men,” Nicholson said.

As much as Nicholson gave credit to his peers for helping these young athletes grow, he played a role in it, as well. When it was announced he was leaving, Nicholson received lots of messages from parents thanking him for their time spent coaching their kids and respecting his decision to enter a new chapter of his life.

The Seymour boys basketball Twitter account tweeted, “The Seymour basketball family would like to express our deepest appreciation and gratitude to coach Jeff Nicholson for his service to our program. He will be moving to the Houston, Texas, area to be closer to family to start the new year. Thanks, coach Nich. Always an Owl.”

“It was very touching, and I appreciate it greatly,” Nicholson said. “The people in Seymour are second to none.”

As he continues to settle into life in Houston, Nicholson plans to keep up with the Owls.

Seymour hasn’t gotten off to the start it wanted to this season, currently sitting at 2-7, but Nicholson is optimistic the Owls can turn it around. He has seen how hard the team is working day in and day out.

Seymour has a home game tonight against Charlestown and then another game Saturday night at Bloomington North. What is Nicholson going to be doing this weekend?

“I’ll be listening to the voice of the Owls, Jay Hubbard,” he said. “Right now, I still want the Owls to do well. If there’s an Owls game, I’ll be listening and sending a text to the coaching staff. Their best basketball is ahead of them. There’s no question.”