Long-time coach says, ‘I think this is the best job around’
One day into his new job and Jamie Nilles already had a long list of questions.
The long-time boys basketball coach at West Valley was confirmed Wednesday as the school’s new athletics director, replacing the retired Wayne McKnight.
“It’s a big job taking over for Wayne,” Nilles said. “He’s been all about the tradition at West Valley, the history and the spirit. He’s already been in a couple times to answer questions and help with the transition. But I’ve moved into the office and started going through stuff trying to figure it all out.”
The job has been a goal for a long time.
“I’ve always thought that being a high school athletic director would be a great job,” he said.
Especially at West Valley, he added.
“I think this is the best job around,” he said. “We have great people, we have great facilities and a great location.”
The first priority will be to hire two new head coaches, one to fill his own spot as varsity boys tennis coach and to replace Bob Barbero, who retired as cross country coach. And he will need to find a replacement for himself as assistant girls basketball coach.
A number of West Valley athletics directors came and went without ever having to hire a cross country coach – a job held for four decades by Hall of Fame coach Jim McLachlan.
Barbero, himself a Hall of Fame coach as well as a West Valley alum, has helped the process by supervising the summer running program until a successor can be named.
“We should have someone picked out by the end of next week,” Nilles said.
As an athletics director in the Great Northern League, Nilles will be in charge of supervising two sports and sharing duties on a third.
Once the league hammers out its schedules for each season, Nilles will then set about filling in nonleague games.
“Each sport is different,” he said. “With basketball, for example, you have eight nonleague games. Volleyball has four. My job is going to be to make sure that every sport has all of its games.”
He also wants to continue to make West Valley a go-to place for other leagues when it comes to post-season play.
“We’ve got three gyms and we’re a great spot for other leagues to hold tournaments,” Nilles said. “We have a great relationship with the Class A League (Northeast A) to hold their tournament here. We’re a great spot for wrestling tournaments – we’re going to host the district tournament here this winter.”
More outside events may come eventually, too.
“We have a great relationship with the community college that Jim McLachlan and his son, the coach there, set up and we want to keep that going,” he said. “Our track coaches, Vic Wallace and Rick Kuhl, would like to see some college track meets here, too.”
Nilles is working his way through the particulars involved with the school’s relationships with area officials associations and with sites like Plantes Ferry Park, the host site for home cross country meets.
“There’s a lot to cover and I have a lot to learn,” he said.
Perhaps the biggest adjustment will come in planning out the day.
“I’m used to being a teacher,” Nilles said. “Every 55 minutes, I have somewhere else to be. Now I’m going to be able to tackle projects and get things done, even if it takes longer than an hour to do it.”
With summer basketball leagues going on as well as interviews and school board meetings to confirm his hire as A.D., Nilles has been spending long days – at the school at 6 a.m. and not getting home until 10 p.m.
“It’s been busy,” he laughed. “My wife coaches, too, so we don’t see each other much at the moment. Sundays. Sundays are our day to set eyes on one another.”
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