St. Bernard Girls Basketball Coach Mike Nystrom

This week’s Coach’s Corner features longtime St. Bernard Girls Basketball Coach Mike Nystrom.  Mike has won several ECC Division Championships during his career as St. Bernard, as well as having coached many all-state and future college players.  He is widely respected as one of the good guys in the profession, a coach who truly puts his players and teams ahead of himself.  I personally had the privilege to work with Mike for 4 years as his Athletic Director and have taken many great memories from that time.  I know many of his current and former players hold Coach Nystrom in the highest regard, and deservedly so.  The following is our interview from this week.

Bill Buscetto: How long have you been the Head Coach at St. Bernard?

Mike Nystrom:  29 years

BB: What other coaching positions did you hold prior to taking over the girls program?

MN: I coached 5 years as an assistant for the SB boys team from 1978-82.

BB:  What made you want to become a high school coach?

MN: I played basketball and baseball in high school and later wanted to continue in athletics so coaching seemed the natural way to go. Many of the coaches I had growing up certainly influenced my going into coaching.

BB:  How would you describe your coaching style? 

MN: I can be intense but as I have gotten older have become more laid back, or so some of my former players tell me anyway.

BB:  What things are most important that you want your players to take away from your program?

MN: To do your best and never give up, especially when things are  going bad.

BB:What was the funniest moment of your coaching career?

MN:  We were playing Stonington last game of year in 1994. They had beaten us by 40 first time  but we were on a roll. I told the girls anyone who  gets on the floor after a ball gets a soda. One minute into game our point guard Lynn Valentine dives for a ball right in front of me. She gets up, points in my face and screams “ That’s a soda coach!”    We won the game!

{Valentine used some of that tenacity to become a professional golfer, playing in multiple LPGA U.S. Opens}

BB: What was the most embarrassing moment of your career?

MN: Donna Luzzi sprinted and dove after a ball going out of bounds and hit the wall.  I start yelling and screaming at her to get up.  It turned out she broke her hand!  Whoops!

BB: Give me a favorite or top moment of your career?

MN: There have been 4 or 5 great moments but I have to go with 2009 ECC Quarter-Finals when we upset East Lyme. The reason I chose this game above others is because my children, Jack and Riley who were 4 at the time, were dancing in the locker room with us after the game!

BB: What was your worst or most painful loss of your career?

MN:   1991 Class L semifinal we lost to Masuk by 1 point. We were better than them. We all sat in the locker room after the game for 15 minutes crying.  I couldn’t speak.  That team only won 7 games the year before.  The seniors on that team, Mel Luzzi, Kristen Smith, Kim Norton,  were very special.  It took me 2 months to get a good night sleep.

BB: What is something nobody knows about you in regards to your coaching background or current position?

MN:  That I coached as a volunteer the SB girls softball team in 1979.

BB: What is a favorite story you like to tell people about a former team or player?

MN: The Lynn Valentine story, hands down.

BB: Give me one story about officials, whether its good, bad, or ugly.

MN: I get along and love all the officials. 

BB:  That’s funny, because I remember watching your trusted asst. and former player Beth Smith hold you back on a few occasions.

MN: I would need to see the film.

BB: Do you have any “wacky parent” stories?

MN:  I walked out of locker room years ago after winning a game and a mother from the other team was in my face screaming at me  because I referred to her daughter by her last name during the game.  She was really just mad because we had prevented her daughter from getting her 1,000 th point that night.

BB: What coach do you always enjoy competing against the most?

MN: Coach Scarlata {NFA}- he calls timeouts for me when I run out of my 5!

BB: The best part of coaching is…

MN:  Getting to work with and know the girls.  I have been blessed with many great kids over the years.


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