MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – Prior to the 2021 season, Brad Nelson knew his basketball coaching days at Marquette were numbered. With a son entering the 7th grade in the Negaunee School District, Nelson was mulling a break from coaching or possible retirement to have more time to spend with his youngest child as he entered high school.
“I was going to retire or take a little break to enjoy the years my son went through high school.” said Nelson.”Whether he was the stud of the 12th man to me wasn’t important it was just sharing that time with him and enjoying the four years in high school.”
But a new opportunity arose when Negaunee High School reached out about their coaching vacancy. It may have been the one and only job that Nelson would consider.
“You know even to be considered to take that position that’s a pretty coveted job not only in the Upper Peninsula but in the state of Michigan,” said Nelson.
The decision to leave Marquette to become the head varsity basketball coach at Negaunee wasn’t an easy one.
“There were a lot of nights in the sauna, you know, pros and cons, and ultimately, you know family came first and that’s something that I preach to my players, and my own children are prioritized things,” said Nelson. “That ultimately was the driving force between me accepting it.”
Nelson exits Marquette after 14 seasons as the varsity head coach ending his tenure with an overall record of 209-83.
“It’s been an outstanding and very successful run, with countless GNC titles, four district titles, and All-Academic All-State ten times,” said Nelson. “There’s just been an incredible amount of success and most importantly, you know, an incredible 200 outstanding young men that have gone on to do great things and that’s more important to me than anything. There was nothing negative that drove this decision it was just me taking advantage of an opportunity that not many people get.”
He hopes he is leaving the program in a better state than when he took it over.
“There are so many positive feelings around the program and the support from the parents and the fans, administrators, the student body, and the excitement about basketball,” said Nelson. “I think we’ve established Marquette as a basketball school as well as a hockey school and that was one of my goals when I took over in 2008 is to get to that point.”
He now will turn his attention to a new challenge, with a renewed fire and passion for coaching. He’ll take over for Dan Waterman who stepped down after eight seasons. Nelson says he’s honored to join a strong lineage of coaches at Negaunee.
“I know I’m going into a situation where the culture has already been established by Tom Russo, Mike O’Donnell, and Dan Waterman,” said Nelson. “That meant a lot to me to be put on that same level as those guys and I’m looking to take the things that I’ve learned coaching and Marquette, we face some different competition that Negaunee does and hopefully, that’s going to help us get to a level where we can compete year in and year out at the state level.”
Although he will be heading to Negaunee to coach, Nelson will be keeping his day job as a full-time teacher at Marquette Senior High School. He’s been teaching in the district since 2005 focusing on Pre-Calculus and Algebra.
“I’m still going to be supporting Marquette Basketball, Marquette kids, Marquette Athletics,” said Nelson. “I’ll just be sporting Maize & Blue so I got to find a new wardrobe. I know that because I don’t have much of that in my closet.”
Marquette will begin their coaching search immediately with the goal to find its new head coach by next month in time for the summer offseason programs.