Brenda Welch-Nichols has taken the Sam Houston women’s basketball program to new heights in her nine 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’ players have combined to set 27 school records and have earned All-Southland Conference honors 12 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. The development of the program since that day has been amazing.
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.
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’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.
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 is married to Barry Nichols. The couple has two sons, Brady and Brock, and a daughter, Brelee.