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Sports/REC: Cyril Nichols - The NEIU Golden Eagles men's basketball team head coach

By Florin Trinca-Pasat
On December 2, 2008

The NEIU men's basketball team is back and for good this time around. There have been little to no attempts to find an individual with a strong will, passion, love for the game of basketball, character, experience and the necessary wisdom to restart the long awaited men's basketball program at NEIU. It is with great respect that I introduce to the entire university an individual I had the pleasure to meet and interview, the Golden Eagles Head Coach.

Coach can you state your name and tell us about your background experience in basketball?

My name is Cyril Nichols (everybody just calls me "Coach"). I played high school basketball at Wells High school here in Chicago, college basketball in the late 80's. I had a good career. I have been blessed to be given the opportunity to coach at various universities and under some of the best coaches in this country. I have been a part of NCAA Division 1 basketball camps, NBA Basketball Clinics and also coached guys that are currently playing overseas. Enough about me because it's not really about me - it's about these students being successful. Basketball gave a lot to me and I love coaching and being a part of these guys, and other students, that come around and actively participate with the program.

What made you come to NEIU and restart a men's basketball program?

I really believe that where you are in life is where you are supposed to be. At the time I was thinking about coaching in Chicago. With my background I probably could have coached at a couple of different places, but one of the alumni that played here at NEIU in the 80's when the program was NCAA Division 1, said to me one day: "why don't you go and start the program at NEIU?" We had talked about it for a while and he said, "you should just go and see the campus and just think about it." One day I was driving by the campus coming from a meeting and I stopped by and I knew this was the place for me to coach.

How did you know the school didn't have a basketball program?

Alumni mentioned it to me.

How is the Basketball Program going to benefit the school and the students at NEIU now and in the future?

Well, I don't have a crystal ball or a time machine, but I know that sports at the college level provides outlets for the players and the students. College athletics can create and should create positive outlets that will create an environment of positive energy through hard work for the players. For the student body that comes to be a part of the athletic atmosphere it creates a sense of pride and also it's an outlet for camaraderie and celebration. All in all, the student and the student athlete is a part of the whole of NEIU whether you are a player, fan, administrator or faculty.

What is it going to take to have a successful program in place?

Well, the fact that we have a team, is a success. In order for us to continue to grow then of course we have to put together a comprehensive plan that will involve administration, staff and alumni support.

Coach what do you think of your current team now and their progress?

Wow, hey, I would not trade our team (NEIU). This is all of our team, not my team; we are a reflection of this institution. If we play at another school we will represent our institution with pride and respect, win or lose. For a team that only practices for three days a week and one of the days we have a full team practice, and the other day we only get one hour (the facility closes early on Friday), these guys have picked up a Division 1 basketball program. That is almost unrealistic to think a bunch of guys that never played at this level with limited practices could retain this much information. We won our first game out of four and one of those games we lost in the last minute and the other games we were able to compete in. Also, understand that I coach these guys at a college level. I am tough on these guys on and off the court. Off the court, these guys understand that graduation is priority, being in class is priority, participating in class and getting involved at NEIU is in their best interest. I believe in student first, then athlete. I emphasize respect for yourself and your institution. Treat people with respect and be on time for class. I know this program has helped some of these guys already and some of these guys just need a push or a person that will advise and tell them the truth.

What would you say to the faculty and administration?

This is a great opportunity for everyone to get involved and build an atmosphere where students and administration can come out and cheer and hang out with each other outside of the classroom. The team has raised money through raffles to buy gym shoes and we are going to keep being creative to raise money so that we represent the school with pride. The recreation department has been supportive of this team. They purchased uniforms and pay for the referees and other expenses. We still need shooting shirts and warm ups, meal money for away games and travel expenses, etc. We will just keep working and keep the faith. We know now in these tough economic times that we have to be creative to raise money. We also just need to recognize the opportunity that we have is somewhat of an obligation to serve the student population and the institution in various areas so that the campus community can at least have the opportunity to go and be involved in a game, play, talent show etc. I say, just remember that we are here for the STUDENTS, our future and this country's future depends on them. Let's all make this college experience just as good as any other college experience in the nation.

Lastly, if there is one thing you could say to the students at NEIU what would it be?

Come out and support the team, e-mail us or check on our Web site ( if you want to get involved with the team. We would love to hear from you. The games are fun; we have a DJ, an announcer and hopefully a mascot soon. We could use a dance team, cheerleaders and special half time show events. We had our first raffle winner, Marci Torres and we will do another one soon. Come out and support your NEIU basketball team and have some fun.

I want to thank Coach Nichols for his time. When many have failed yet one finds and sees success in individuals, regardless of experience, a miracle is about to take place. It is a great time for this university to come together as one and support each other and the newly restarted men's basketball program. Here is the opportunity to participate and be part of the big picture whether you're a student, faculty or an administrator, it benefits all of us as one. GO NEIU GOLDEN EAGLES!!!

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