Luis Nicolao enters his 18th year overseeing both the Princeton University men's and women's water polo programs. In his first 17 seasons, Nicolao posted a combined 751-276 (.731) record. Under his tutelage, the men hold a 341-141 (.707) overall mark, while the women have amassed a 410-135 (.752) ledger.
The Association of Collegiate Water Polo Coaches Men's National Coach of the Year in 2004, Nicolao 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 seven occasions (Men: 2001, 2003, 2008; Women: 2001, 2005, 2006, 2013).
Over the years, the men have won eight Southern titles (1999, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2014), three Eastern crowns (2004, 2009, 2011), and made three NCAA tournament appearances (2004, 2009, 2011). In that same time span, the women have nine Southern titles to their credit (1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014), four Eastern crowns (2000, 2012, 2013, 2015), and three NCAA berths (2012, 2013, 2015).
Last season, the men's squad posted a 23-4 mark, captured their eight Southern title and advanced to their second-consecutive CWPA championship game. Three different Tigers garnered All-Southern first team and honorable mention All-America accolades. On the women's side, the Tigers matched a program record with a 31-5 overall mark. Capturing its fourth Eastern Championship, Princeton secured its third NCAA Tournament berth, ultimately placing sixth overall.
In 2014, the Princeton men finished the year with a 22-6 mark, going 7-1 against Southern Division opponents. Placing third in the Southern tournament, the Orange & Black advanced to the CWPA title tilt before falling to St. Francis. On the women’s side, the Tigers posted a program record 31 wins (31-2), capturing a third consecutive Southern title (ninth overall) before eventually falling to Indiana in the CWPA championship game.
In 2013, the women maintained their dominance in the CWPA going undefeated in Southern play (5-0) en route to the Southern Division title and Eastern Championship crown for the second consecutive season. Behind a 28-6 record, the Tigers advanced to their second NCAA tournament where they put forth a program-best fifth-place showing. 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 to earn NCAA Tournament berths.
The 2011 men's water polo team won 22 games and captured Princeton's fourth Eastern title with a win over Navy. Princeton went on to the NCAA Championships, eventually placing third overall with a victory over UC-San Diego. Following the men's season, Nicolao was honored with the Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men's Coaching Award from USA Water Polo.
On the women’s side, the squad established several program benchmarks, culminating with the team's second Eastern Championship and first-ever appearance in the NCAA Championship. Nicolao also earned his 300th career victory at the helm of the women's program by virtue of a 12-6 win over Bucknell on Feb. 24, 2012.
Success in the pool runs in Nicolao's family. His mother, Lee Davis, was a world-record holder in the distance freestyle while his father, Luis, was a world-record holder in the 100-butterfly. Nicolao 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.
Attending Navy, Nicolao was a three-time All-America and All-East selection for the Midshipmen, graduating as the all-time leading scorer in Academy history. During the course of his career, Navy won two Eastern Championships and reached the NCAA tournament on three occasions. After earning the Midshipmen’s Athletic Association Sword as the top graduating male athlete in 1992, Nicolao served as an assistant water polo coach for a season. He was also a member of the U.S. National Team that won the gold medal at the World University Games before serving in the Navy for five years as a lieutenant.
Nicolao returned to his alma mater’s pool in 1996 as an assistant coach. Receiving an honorable discharge from the Navy, he arrived at Princeton in 1998 while also serving as the U.S. men's national "B" team assistant coach (1998, 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.