BYU and UVU regularly compete against each other in a wide variety of sports, a rivalry that is often called the Crosstown Clash.
This year, however, the Cougars and the Wolverines have also been looking at each other for coaches.
A month ago the BYU men’s basketball team hired UVU’s Mark Pope and he brought some of his Wolverines assistant coaches with him to Provo.
Monday, UVU got Cougar assistant Dan Nielson to go the other direction as he was introduced as the new Wolverine head women’s basketball coach.
“This a thrilling new beginning for women’s basketball,” UVU president Astrid Tuminez said at Monday’s official press conference. “But this is also a homecoming of sorts, so welcome back to you, Coach.”
Nielson coached in Orem from 2009-13, helping the Wolverines win a regular-season and tournament title during their time in the Great West Conference.
“It’s a pleasure to be back at a place I love,” Nielson said. “It’s a true privilege to be here. I had the opportunity to meet with the players who are here today. We talked about the future and how it is good to be at program that is growing. I’m excited to be part of the WAC. I told the team that I expect to win and I know we will be capable of doing that.”
Nielson is just the second women’s basketball coach at UVU in its Division I era. He will be taking the helm from Cathy Nixon, who led the program for 24 years before taking a position as senior associate athletic director this year.
Nielson said he talked to his former boss and is glad that Nixon will still be part of the Wolverine athletic department.
“She was supportive and encouraged me to go for the job,” Nielson said. “I’m excited she will still be with the department and I’m excited to have her involved in some capacity.”
Change always brings challenges but the Wolverines are looking at this addition as an opportunity to build more momentum.
“He will be part of the story of pivoting to a new future,” Tuminez said. “He brings 18 years of basketball experience at BYU and UVU. As I read the dossier he submitted, I was intimidated. I don’t understand all of the technical terms but he has worked a lot with the No. 3, 4 and 5 positions, which are known as ‘bigs.’ We expect big things from him.”
Nielson said his sales pitch to future Wolverines is going to be all about being a trailblazer.
“The reason to come to UVU is the potential for growth and to reach goals,” Nielson said. “The opportunities to do it quickly is here. There are opportunities to do things that have never been done. We have to have people who want to build something. Those are the people we are looking for.”
He plans to get right to work, both at recruiting and at hiring his assistant coaches. He said he believes his personal experience has prepared him to take on the head coaching responsibilities.
“Everyone said it is the hardest thing to go from assistant to head coach,” Nielson said. “But I started as a practice player and checked every box on the way. I feel I have a good idea of what a program needs. I’ve talked about why I wanted to be at UVU. I’ve worked here and seen the potential for growth. For me and my family, it was the perfect fit and I couldn’t pass it up.”
He expressed his gratitude to BYU head women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins for what he learned during his time in Provo, and to his wife Carly for all she does to support him.
“Being a coach’s wife is harder than being a coach,” he said.
One of the things he is looking forward to is having has family, particularly his three daughters, get to know the UVU players again.
“It’s important for me to have my daughters have these women as role models and be around them,” Nielson said.