Brenda Welch-Nichols has taken the Sam Houston women’s basketball program to new heights in her 11 years as the Bearkats’ head coach.
Highlights of Nichols’ tenure at SHSU include the university’s first women’s Southland Conference championship and NCAA Division I post-season tournament appearances in the Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) and Women’s National Invitational (WNIT).
Nichols was inducted in the Sam Houston Athletics Hall of Honor on November 14, 2014, as part of the seventh-ever class of Women's Lettermen's Association.
With 115 career wins, Nichols ranks second all-time for victories including checking in at first in Southland Conference wins with 75. With a 78-63 win against Houston Baptist on Feb. 11, 2016, Nichols secured her 150th career win as a Division I head coach.
Under the direction of Nichols, the Bearkats entered the 2016 Southland Conference Tournament as the fifth-seed, but made a run to remember. Playing three games in as many days, Sam Houston defeated Lamar, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin, advancing to the league title game for the second time in four seasons.
Nichols tutored a pair of players who reached milestones in 2016. Angela Beadle recorded her 1,000th point and 1,000th rebound in the conference tournament. Shernise Robertson also captured her 1,000th point. Both athletes received invites to the 2016 Final Four combine.
Nichols’ players have combined to set 27 school records and have earned All-Southland Conference honors 12 times. Since 2007, 23 student-athletes have been named to the Southland Commissioner's Academic Honor Roll a total of 31 times.
An all-league player and top scorer for the Kats’ first Southland Conference squad in 1988, Nichols returned to her alma mater as the University’s 10th women’s basketball head coach on August 23, 2006.
In Nichols’ first season in 2007, the SHSU women won only two conference games. The team suffered through a 1-27 season in 2008. But during those early years a strong and steady recruiting effort laid the foundation for record-setting seasons.
Nichols led Sam Houston to four straight Southland Conference Tournaments (2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013), which had not been done since 1997-2000 tournaments.
In 2013, Sam Houston earned its first Southland Conference regular season women’s basketball championship. The team followed up with its post-season tournament finals appearance in the program's 28 years in the league and an appearance in the Women's National Invitational Tournament.
The WNIT and WBI berths stand as Sam Houston's first ever NCAA Division I women's basketball national tournament appearances.
Sam Houston defeated Rice to reach Quarterfinals of Women’s Basketball Invitational (WBI) in the school’s first postseason appearance and hosted Rice in another school first. The Kats won consecutive division titles during 2010-11 and 2011-12.
Sam Houston’s 18-14 overall record in 2012-13 marked the program's third consecutive winning season. Sam Houston had produced only two other winning seasons (in 1988 and 1996) in the University’s 27 years at the NCAA Division I level.
The 18 wins both in 2012 and 2013 equaled the school mark for most victories in one year (tying the 1996 squad). The 53 victories during the past three seasons mark the most in a three-year period for Sam Houston’s 31-year history as an NCAA program.
After taking the Bearkats from last place to first, Nichols earned Southland Conference "Coach of the Year" honors in 2013.
2013 senior Britni Martin departed Huntsville as one of the most decorated Bearkats ever. Martin earned First-Team All-SLC honors in 2012-13 and 2011-12. She ranks second in scoring and assists in school history, and first in 3-point field goals and free throw percentage. In 2011-12, Martin finished 52nd nationally in scoring (17.2 ppg) and scored 1,000+ points for her career (4 seasons). She was also selected to participate in WBCA So You Want To Be A Coach 2013.
Fellow 2013 senior Sequeena Thomas had a career for the record books. Thomas stands as the Bearkats all-time leader in rebounds and blocked shots, and ranks fourth in scoring. She garnered Defensive Player of the Year, First-Team All-SLC accolades and a spot on the All-Defense Team in 2012-13 while receiving Second-Team All-SLC recognition in 2011-12. In 2011-12, Thomas finished 2nd in the nation in rebounds per game (12.5). She also scored 1,000-plus points and registered 1,000-plus rebounds during her four-year career.
Both Britni Martin and Sequeena Thomas are both invited to 2013 Women’s Final-Four Combine.
Nichols was the leading scorer for the 18-9 Sam Houston squad in 1988, coming to Huntsville after two years as an NJCAA All-American at Western Texas Junior College. Her 17.8 career scoring average stands as the second highest mark in Bearkat women's basketball history.
Prior to returning to Huntsville as Sam Houston head coach, Nichols was head coach at Mercer University in Macon, Ga.; served as an assistant at South Alabama and Memphis and was head coach at Okaloosa-Walton Community College and Western Texas.
Her first collegiate assistant coaching job came at Pensacola Junior College in Florida where Bob Marlin, who directed the Bearkat men's basketball program to three conference titles between 1999 and 2010, was then coaching.
Nichols and all the Bearkat student-athletes have become familiar faces around Huntsville due to their work in the community. The Kats participate in many community service activities including reading to elementary school children and giving talks to older kids about the importance of education and hard work.
Nichols earned her Sam Houston degree in physical education in 1989 and her master’s at West Florida in 1992. The Jennings, La., native has two sons, Brady and Brock, and a daughter, Brelee.