PANAMA â€” Some decisions are not easy to make. Just ask Panama High School Boys Basketball Coach Greg Nichols, a.k.a., â€śThe Czar of Coaching.â€ť
After quite a period of time, Nichols made the decision on Wednesday to retire after 34 years of coaching, 29 of which were spent in Oklahoma â€” including stops at Panama and Heavener.
â€śIt was an extremely hard decision to make,â€ť Nichols said. â€śYou hate to leave players you've gotten close to. That was the hard part. It was a tough decision. I kicked it around for a long time before I finally decided to do it (on Wednesday).â€ť
As far as the state of Oklahoma is concerned, Nichols is retiring. However, he isn't really retiring. Nichols accepted the job as the assistant boys basketball coach at Greenwood (Ark.) High School. He is the second individual to leave his LeFlore County high school job for Greenwood. Right near the end of this past school year, Poteau High School Baseball Coach Ronnie Sockey accepted the Greenwood High School softball coaching job.
Nichols said it was a financially-based decision to take the Greenwood job.
â€śI've got 30 years (coaching/teaching) in Oklahoma,â€ť he said. â€śMy retirement isn't going to get much better after 30 years. So, I decided that since I was fairly young, that I'd go over into Arkansas and coach over there. Financially, it's going to be a tremendous advantage for me. I just saw an opportunity that I just couldn't turn down. The hardest part was telling my (current) Panama players what I was going to do.â€ť
It also made the decision a little easier to make since the job is not the head coaching job, thus not having to deal with problems a head coach does.
â€śIt most certainly did factor into my decision,â€ť Nichols said. â€śI get to go over there, and I get to be with the seventh through the ninth grade basketball players â€” not as a game coach, per se. But when the high school players come in, I'll be a coach on the floor. I won't have to worry about any of their problems. I'll probably do the laundry more often than not. I'm going to be able to relax and just coach basketball.â€ť
It also helped that there won't be any relocation in store for Nichols and his family.
â€śI'm going to continue living in Heavener, and I'll just commute back and forth,â€ť he said. â€śIt's about a 40 minute drive.â€ť
Nichols coached teams to 20 district titles, 19 area-tournament appearances, three state-tournament appearances, coached in the All-State Boys Basketball Game, the Faith 7 Game and the Indian All-State Game. Some of Nichols' honors include being named the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year and the Athletic Director of the Year. He served as president of the Oklahoma Athletic Directors Association and the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association.
It's very clear what Nichols will treasure the most from his coaching tenure.
â€śI think it's just the relationships I had with my players,â€ť he said. â€śI've had some great players over the years at every school I've been at. They call me from time to time. I've received text messages from former players, wishing me congratulations on my retirement. When I go to reunions or they stop by the house, we're going to reminisce â€” that will be a fun situation.â€ť
Panama High School is no different.
â€śI'll remember the players, first and foremost,â€ť Nichols said. â€śThose are the young men I've tried to help shape their lives so they can succeed later on after high school. I've made some good friends at Panama, and I hope to treasure their friendship for a long time.â€ť
Nichols does want to make it clear that unless the right job opening came calling, he was not going to leave the Razorbacks.
â€śI wasn't going to leave Panama for just any job,â€ť he said. â€śI felt like my players here were getting better every year. I wasn't just going to take any job. But this was one job which came open just over the border. It's just a 40-minute drive. I felt like it was in the best interest for me and my family to do this.â€ť