When EWU head coach Shantay Legans was given the keys to the men’s basketball program in 2017, he swiftly hired Nick Booker – formerly an assistant at Davidson and UC Irvine – as his associate head coach.
The two Southern California natives led EWU to back-to-back Big Sky Tournament championship game appearances in 2018 and 2019, an outright Big Sky regular-season title in 2020 before conference and NCAA Tournaments were canceled amid COVID-19 concerns, and a combined Big Sky record of 41-17.
Now Booker, who played collegiately at Davidson in the early 2000s after starring in Oceanside, California, is headed home.
Booker announced Tuesday that he recently accepted an assistant coaching job at UC San Diego, a former NCAA Division II power that will begin play as a member of the Division I Big West Conference in 2020-2021.
The Tritons finished 30-1 last season before NCAA cancellations.
“It was hard decision because we had a good thing going at Eastern,” Booker said. “But it was an easier decision when you think about being around your family again. I can’t buy back the three years of my kids’ lives I missed a lot of.”
Booker’s three young children –11, 10 and 6 years old – all live in Southern California.
Booker said is thankful that Legans gave him a chance to help lead a team that ranked sixth in the nation in scoring per game (80.9) and said he believes EWU, which welcomes back the majority of its roster from last year, will continue its ascent next season.
Legans said he will likely hire from within to replace Booker. Former Whitworth standout David Riley and Bobby Suarez were the other two paid assistant coaches on staff last season.
“(Booker) helped build us to where we’re at, we built culture together and with guys that we thought we’ve done it right with,” said Legans, one of Booker’s best friends. “He had a hand in everything, especially in defense and recruiting. He’ll be a head coach one day. “
Booker is looking forward to the next chapter of his coaching career.
“(UC San Diego) has a good basketball program at a school that’s ranked among the best public universities in the country,” Booker said. “They’re on the cutting edge of athletic training and performance, and, financially, the school is doing well.”
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