Luis Nicolao enters his 16th season overseeing both the men's and women's water polo programs at Princeton.
Nicolao owns a combined 642-261 (.713) record during his tenure at Princeton. Under his tutelage, the men hold a 296-133 (.693) record, while the women are 348-128 (.731) under the veteran coach.
Coming off the success of 2012, the women maitained their dominance in the CWPA going undefeated in Southern play (5-0), capturing the Southern Division championship and winning the Eastern Championship for the second consecutive season. Behind a 28-6 record, the Tigers advanced to their second NCAA tournament where they finished with a program-best fifth-place mark.
On the men's side, the Tigers went 17-12, 5-3 Southern and earned third place finishes at both the Southern and Eastern championships.
The 2011-12 academic year was the most successful in Nicolao's career, as both the men's and the women's teams won the CWPA Eastern Championship and advanced to the NCAA Championship.
The 2011 men's water polo team won 22 games and captured Princeton's fourth Eastern title and second in the past three years with a win over Navy in the Eastern finals. Princeton went on to the NCAA Championships and won the third-place game over UC San Diego to finish third overall.
Following the men's season, Nicolao was honored with the Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men's Coaching Award from USA Water Polo.
For the women in 2012, the squad established several program-best marks, culminating with the team's second Eastern Championship and first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship. The Tigers opened the year riding a 14-game winning streak, won a program-high 29 games (29-6 overall) and earned its sixth Southern Division Championship en route to the NCAAs. Nicolao also earned his 300th career victory at the helm of the women's program in 2012, in a 12-6 win over Bucknell on Feb. 24.
In 2009, Nicolao led the men to their first Eastern title since the 2004 season and a berth in the NCAA tournament for the just the third time in program history. Princeton defeated Loyola Marymount in the consolation game of the tournament. In the 2010 women's season, Princeton won 20 games, was a Southern finalist and placed third at Easterns.
The men posted 16-12 record in 2009 as injuries took their toll in the regular season, but Princeton won five of six games at Southerns and Easterns to earn the Eastern title and advance to the NCAA Championships, which were hosted by the Tigers at DeNunzio Pool. Princeton won its first tournament game by defeating Loyola Marymount 6-5 in the consolation game.
The achievements of Princeton water polo in the 2011 men's and women's seasons continued the tradition of success under Nicolao, who has a combined record of 568-237 in 13 years with the men and women. In that span the two teams have combined to win 12 Southern titles and record 18 20-win seasons. Nicolao's 500th win at Princeton came on March 19, 2009 when the women's team topped Cal State San Bernardino 7-4 at the SDSU Aztec Invitational.
Nicolao was Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches Men's National Coach of the Year in 2004. He also has five Eastern Coach of the Year Awards split between the men and the women (Men: 2004, 2009, 2011; Women: 2001, 2007). Additionally, he has garnered Southern Coach of the Year honors on six occasions, three each with the men and women (Men: 2001, 2003, 2008; Women: 2001, 2005, 2006, 2013).
In Nicolao's tenure, the men have won six Southern titles (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010), three Eastern titles (2004, 2009, 2011) and made three NCAA tournament appearances (2004, 2009, 2011). In that same time span, the women have six Southern titles to their credit (1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013) and one Eastern crown (2000, 2012, 2013).
Nicolao led the men's team to a Southern title in 2008 as Princeton reclaimed the trophy for the first time in four seasons with a win over Navy at DeNunzio Pool. The team was 19-10 and was the runner-up at Easterns. The 2009 women won 16 games and were Southern finalists.
Nicolao led the women's team to a Southern title in 2008 as the team recorded 11th-straight 20-win season and won its sixth Southern title. In the 2006-07 season, Nicolao received his first Eastern Women's Coach of the Year Award as he led the women to a 20-9 record and the Eastern Championship game for the first time since 2000. On the men's side, Princeton won 18 games and placed second at both Southerns and Easterns.
A season earlier in 2005-06 Nicolao guided both programs to 20-win seasons, as well as a Southern title for the women. Nicolao received three coaching accolades in 2004-05 as both the men's and women's teams set school records for wins in a season. He led the men to a 25-6 record, which included the Southern and Eastern titles and Princeton's first trip to NCAA Final Four since 1992. Nicolao was named the National Coach of the Year and the Eastern Coach of the Year. On the women's side, the Tigers were 27-9 and won Southerns. Nicolao was named the Southern Coach of the Year for his efforts.
In just his second season at Princeton, Nicolao led the men to a 22-3 record and their second CWPA Southern title. The Tigers also finished third at Easterns and were ranked 13th in the nation. The women finished 25-6 while winning their first-ever Eastern championship, a second consecutive ECAC title and a Mid-Atlantic Championship, earning an eighth-place finish at the National Collegiate Championships. Nicolao was named the CWPA Eastern Coach of the Year. The next year, the women were ECAC and Southern champs, and in 2001-02, the men took first place at Southerns and third at ECACs. In 2002-03, the women won ECACs, while the men were second at both the ECAC and Southern tournaments.
Success in the pool runs in Nicolao's family. His mother, Lee Davis, was a world-record holder in the distance freestyle and his father, Luis, was a world-record holder in the 100 butterfly. The younger Luis followed suit as a two-time high school All-America in water polo, leading Bellarmine College Prep in California to its local championship each year.
Nicolao then attended Navy, where he was a three-time All-America and All-East selection and the all-time leading scorer in Navy history. The Midshipmen won two Eastern Championships and reached the NCAA tournament three times during his career. After earning Navy's Athletic Association Sword as the top graduating male athlete in 1992, Nicolao served as an assistant water polo coach for a year. He was also a member of the U.S. National Team that won the gold medal at the World University Games. He then served in the Navy for five years as a lieutenant.
Nicolao returned to Navy's pool in 1996 as an assistant before coming to Princeton in 1998, when he received an honorable discharge from the Navy. He also served as the men's national "B" team assistant coach in 1998 and 1999.
Nicolao earned a Master's Degree in adult education from the University of Phoenix. He and his wife Kellie have two daughters, Madison and Morgan.