D2 UMary names new Head Men’s Basketball Coach

Today, the University of Mary announced that Jack Nelson will lead a new era of Marauders Men’s Basketball as head coach. Nelson, long associated with successful programs throughout the region, joins the Marauders following three seasons as the associate head coach at nationally-ranked University of Sioux Falls.

Nelson’s accomplishments include seven 20-win seasons, seven teams ranked nationally, a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) divisional title, and four trips to national tournaments as both an assistant and head coach throughout the Midwest at multiple levels of collegiate basketball.

“Jack Nelson immediately became a front runner in the interview process, fully meeting all of the qualifications established by the search committee as an ideal head basketball coaching candidate for the University of Mary,” said University of Mary Athletic Director Dale Lennon. “Coach Nelson understands how to successfully compete in the NSIC. He has the necessary recruiting relationships to identify and connect with talented prospective scholar-athletes. His coaching philosophies and style are contemporary and proven. During the on-campus interview, his ability to relate with our scholar-athletes and staff was extremely impressive. I’m excited for the future of Marauders basketball.”

The selection process is thorough. The search committee, made up of a cross-section of former players from various decades, current faculty, and a former head coach, is able to draw on both the long history of men’s basketball at UMary, that stretches back over a half-century, along with a significant emphasis on the university’s mission.

“I am thrilled to welcome Jack Nelson to the University of Mary,” said University of Mary President Monsignor James P. Shea. “His experience not only in coaching but in forming scholar-athletes into men of character will be instrumental in taking our basketball program to the next level both on and off the court. His calm demeanor masks an intense desire to win, and he has found success everywhere he has coached in his career thus far. I am excited to watch him develop our players and program.”

In his last three years at Sioux Falls, the Cougars were ranked nationally all three seasons and twice earned a top-10 NCAA regional ranking. From 2018-21, USF posted a 48-24 record and won the 2020 NSIC South Division title with players collecting six All-Conference plaques and an All-Region citation.

“I would like to thank Monsignor Shea, Jerome Richter, Dale Lennon, and the entire search committee,” said Nelson. “Throughout this process it was very apparent to me the importance of this position to the university and I could not be more honored to become the leader of the University of Mary men’s basketball program.

“I am extremely excited to get to work with a core group of young men that will be the foundation of our program. From my time in the Northern Sun and familiarity with the Marauders program from afar, it is obvious to me that we have a tough, hungry group that loves to compete. I look forward to getting to know them, building relationships, and using basketball as a vessel for developing well-rounded people.

“My family and I feel extremely blessed to have the opportunity to join such a special university and to also be able to raise our children in Bismarck, a great community.”

A native of Dillon, CO, Nelson earned his first head coaching job at Central Wyoming College. In two seasons he led the Rustlers to a 41-21 record, a pair of 2nd place finishes at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) sub-regions, and each year a birth in the Region IX quarterfinals. In 2017-18, Central Wyoming was 20-12, including 10-4 in league play. His 2016-17 squad finished 21-9 overall with an 11-3 league mark. He coached three All-Region selections and all his players went on to compete at the 4-year level.

Before running the Rustlers program, Nelson served four years on the Minot State University staff from 2012-16, where he helped the Beavers to three double-digit win seasons, including the program’s first NCAA DII winning campaign with 15 wins and 14 losses in 2015-16. At Minot State, he recruited the school’s first All-NSIC player and the program’s first NSIC Player of the Year.

From 2008-12, Nelson earned trips to four straight National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) national tournaments with two different programs. At Bellevue University in 2011-12, the Bruins posted a record of 28-6 to win the Minnesota College Athletic Conference (MCAC) regular and post-season championships. Four players earned All-MCAC honors with two receiving All-American recognition. Bellevue reached the NAIA’s Sweet 16 and finished 8th in the final national rankings.

In his first coaching position at the University of Sioux Falls, Nelson became a Cougars assistant from 2008-11, where he also served as the head coach for the junior varsity while also helping the Cougars transition from NAIA to NCAA DII. Those USF teams enjoyed great success, compiling a record of 67-34 overall and advancing to the NAIA National Tournament three consecutive seasons. The Cougars won the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) Tournament Championship in both 2009 and 2011 and were the tournament runners-up in 2010.  

Nelson began his collegiate coaching career in 2007 at Saint Mary’s University in Winona, MN, where he assisted in all aspects of the basketball program, including recruiting, game plans, and fundraising.

After earning an Associate of Arts degree at Black Hawk College in Kewanee, IL, Nelson received his bachelor’s degree in Sports Management at Saint Mary’s University and his master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Winona State University. Jack and his wife Jamie have two children, Raelynn and Kai.

Nelson becomes the ninth head coach in Marauders men’s basketball program history. The Marauders took the court in 1970 as the first athletic team at Mary. The Marauders will celebrate 50 years of athletics this upcoming season.


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