For Matt Nickell, what he was missing out on in life as boys’ head basketball coach at Central Hardin High School became a constant reminder that you never can get back time — especially with your children.
Following a few months of trying to figure out what to do, Nickell, 45, has stepped down after seven years as head coach. He also spent 13 years as an assistant coach with the Bruins.
He told the team Monday afternoon.
“It definitely was a hard decision to make because I didn’t lose the passion or anything like that,” he said. “I just feel like this is the time that’s perfect for me — me and my family are who matters the most in this decision and that’s kind of what we based it on.”
Nickell, a 1996 CHHS graduate, guided the Bruins to a 104-91 record and three 5th Region Tournament berths. Central Hardin fell in the first round each time, including 60-57 this year to LaRue County.
Nickell’s resignation leaves both basketball head coaching positions open at the school. Kristina Covington-Jones resigned last week.
“It wasn’t a quick decision,” Nickell said. “Been talking a little bit about it with my wife (Brittany) probably since December. I just felt like now was the time. I just feel like it’s time for someone else to lead here, another voice for the boys. Been doing it for 20 years now as an assistant and head coach and I just feel it’s time to start a new chapter in my life.”
The Bruins went 19-14 last season and return two of the best players in the 5th Region in juniors Brett Decker and Ace Jaggers as well as several other players.
“This place has a lot of assets, players coming back, renovations and different things happening here,” he said. “I’m not the type of person who was going to leave when the cupboard was bare type of thing. I just felt like the timing was right for my family and I.”
CHHS Athletic Director J.C. Wright, who Nickell replaced after the 2015-2016 season, said Nickell has been “dedicated” to the program and the school.
“Matt has given his heart and soul to the program,” Wright said. “People don’t understand the sacrifice Matt and other coaches make in coaching high school athletics. He chose to sacrifice time with his own family to create a family amongst the players and coaches on his team. That is just one thing that Matt has contributed to our program and school.”
Last season with gym renovations on campus, the Bruins spent most of their season on the road and played just seven “home” games at the former East Hardin Middle School in Glendale.
Nickell said it hit home this year when he realized how many of his daughter Ramsey’s volleyball games at East Hardin he was missing. An older daughter, Reese, is a CHHS junior and plays softball.
“Obviously I’ll get to do more things with them as far as their sport and different aspects of their life and I’m looking forward to that,” he said.
He said Monday was a tough day in telling the team and his coaches of his decision.
“That was a hard thing to do,” he said. “I told them how much I loved them and how big of a part of my life they are, and if they need anything I’m still going to be around. Probably the hardest part was going to tell (volunteer assistant coach) Justin Pawley, he’s the biggest part of this place. Going over and telling him was pretty tough, too.”
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