The tradition-rich Northwestern State women’s basketball team long has enjoyed success with first-time Division I head coaches.
That list grew by one Saturday as Anna Nimz, the 34-year-old associate head coach at UT Rio Grande Valley, was named the 10thfull-time head coach in program history.
Nimz takes over following Missy Bilderback’s decision to step aside two weeks after accepting the job March 17. Nimz’ hiring is subject to approval of the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, which governs Northwestern State.
“Anna brings successful head coaching experience and a commitment to the total student-athlete that is going to pay dividends for Lady Demon basketball on several levels,” Director of Athletics Greg Burke said. “She also exudes boundless energy and passion that will inspire and motivate the young ladies in the basketball program. People who know her describe her personality as ‘infectious’ and that will resonate well in areas such as recruiting, fund raising and public relations.”
A two-year letterwinner and team captain at Pittsburg State, Nimz spent the past two seasons as the associate head coach at UTRGV, helping the Vaqueros reach the 2019 Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship game and earn a 2019 Women’s Basketball Invitational berth.
With Nimz on staff, the Vaqueros led the WAC in scoring defense in 2018-19, produced five All-WAC selections and tallied the most WAC wins (10) in program history.
Nimz arrived at UTRGV after eight years as a junior college head coach, spending five seasons at Labette Community College in Parsons, Kansas, before coaching three years at Kilgore College in Texas.
Nimz took over the Labette program at 25 years old, giving her ample opportunities to grow in an on-the-job atmosphere.
“Having an opportunity at such a young age, being thrown into the fire, made me grow quickly as a coach,” Nimz said. ” I was going to clinics, watching videos, working through trial and error, and it made me grow into the coach I am today. Labette provided me a great opportunity to step in and figure out who I was as a coach and I am forever grateful for that.”
That approach helped Nimz recruit three all-conference and three all-region players at Labette while five of her student-athletes earned scholarships to NCAA institutions.
From Labette, Nimz was hired to rebuild a once-proud Kilgore College program that had fallen to seven wins in 2013-14. Hired in June 2014, Nimz took the standing Kilgore roster and improved from seven wins to 16 in her first season.
She followed with consecutive 21-win seasons, marking the first time in 21 years Kilgore College had won at least 20 games in consecutive seasons.
In three seasons at Kilgore, Nimz posted a 58-36 overall record, reaching a pair of NJCAA Region 14 championship games.
Nimz credited her time at both junior college programs for giving her insight into the totality of running a college basketball program, something that was evident in her two seasons at UTRGV.
“Anna is a hard-working winner,” said UTRGV head coach Lane Lord, who took Nimz on his Pittsburg State staff as a graduate assistant after her playing career ended.
“She knows how to handle every facet of our program to the point I could leave for a week and she would not miss a beat overseeing the team. She will win games but academics and family will both be high priorities for her, too. People are going to love her because she will take an interest in them. She is going to make somebody feel important every day.”
In addition to averaging 10.9 points and 3.1 assists per game in her two seasons at Pittsburg State, Nimz was named the Pittsburg State Outstanding Student-Athlete of the Year for 2006-07 and was a named Student Major of the Year in Health, Human Performance and Recreation. A two-time Pittsburg State graduate, Nimz was the 2008-09 Graduate Student of the Year in Health, Human Performance and Recreation.
She was Kilgore College’s Employee of the Year in 2016-17.
Anna’s resume also reflects one who leads by example and gets involved,” Burke said. “She is going to be a great addition to our department, our campus and in our community. She will place value on cultivating relationships and engaging all constituencies, including Lady Demon alumni. She has a tremendous work ethic and will work tirelessly to enhance the profile of the program.”
Nimz began her coaching career at Pittsburg State as a graduate assistant, helping lead the Gorillas to their first 20-win season in 14 years while recruiting and coaching eight All-Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association honorees.
The similarities in Pittsburg and Natchitoches appealed to Nimz.
“I enjoy the small town and heard how family-oriented the university is,” Nimz said. “I heard amazing things about the people in town and the people at the university. For me, that’s attractive.”
The Lady Demon tradition also appealed to Nimz.
“It’s a place you can win,” she said. “It has a strong basketball tradition. The facilities put you in a position to excite kids. It presents itself as an exciting opportunity. I like the Southland Conference. It’s a very competitive, tradition-rich conference.”
Although unable to visit campus because of issues surrounding the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, Nimz was able to speak to several current Lady Demons during the interview process.
“I was able to meet with Lacee (Savage), Tristen (Washington) and Halei (Gillis),” Nimz said. “The thing that stood out is they’re ready to work. Every one of them mentioned making the conference tournament. I asked them if they wanted to make the tournament or put in the work to make the tournament. The responses I got back from them were great. I’m really happy with everything they brought to the table.
“They seemed excited about things instead of being more reserved. What excited me is, when this broke, I got text messages from all three girls.”
Nimz joins Pat Nolen Pierson, James Smith, Jennifer Graf, Brooke and Scott Stoehr, Jordan Dupuy and Bilderback as coaches whose first Division I job came at Northwestern State.
“To be 34 and to have an opportunity to take over a great program, in a place where you feel you fit, that’s important,” Nimz said. “I’m excited about the intangibles surrounding this opportunity.”
What They’re Saying About Anna Nimz:
“Anna is phenomenal to work with. She’s a great communicator and is very engaging. Her personality is infectious and the student-athletes relate to her passion and energy. She’s a ‘big piece to the puzzle’ for our women’s basketball program.”
— Chasse Conque, Director of Athletics at UTRGV
“Anna is loyal, appreciative trustworthy and hard-working. Those are valuable traits that aren’t as evident in coaching circles as they used to be. She has a strong work ethic – the first time I met her at Kilgore she was on her hands and knees scraping glue off of the floor so that she could put down new carpet in the locker room. It’s her time for an opportunity like this. On a scale of 1-10, she’s a 12.”
— Larry Tidwell, Associate Head Women’s Basketball Coach, Kansas
“The best decision I ever made was to hire Anna. She’s serious about winning and takes care of all of the details that will help the team reach that goal. Her entire team – not just one or two players – were junior college Academic All-Americans. On the sidelines, she is always the teacher and that is something I always admired about her”
– Jimmy Rieves, Athletic Director, Kilgore College
Nimz at UT Rio Grande Valley. Credit: UTRGV Athletics