Luis Nicolao enters his 15th season overseeing
both the men's and women's water polo programs at Princeton. He is coming off
of his most successful year, guiding both the men's and the women's teams to
the Eastern Championship and the NCAA Championship during the 2011-12
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
Following the men's season, Nicolao was honored
with the Monte Nitzkowski Distinguished Men's Coaching Award from USA Water
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
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
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).
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) and one Eastern crown (2000).
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
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.