After Guiding PU Water Polo for 20 Years, Nicolao Returning Home to Naval Academy
ANCHOR AWAY: Princeton University water polo head coach Luis Nicolao makes a point to his women players. Nicolao announced last week that he will be stepping down from his post to be the head coach of the water polo program at his alma mater, the U.S. Naval Academy. Nicolao spent 20 years at Princeton as the head coach of both the men’s and women’s programs. During that time, Nicolao posted a combined 844-312 (.730) record, going 402-163 (.712) with the men and 442-149 (.748) with the women. He took the Princeton men’s and women’s water polo teams to the NCAA tournament a combined seven times. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
For Luis Nicolao, the hard lessons he learned as a student-athlete at the U.S. Naval Academy have served him well.
While Nicolao was miserable when he arrived in Annapolis in the summer of 1988, he emerged as a water polo star for the Midshipmen, becoming a three-time All-America and All-East selection for the Midshipmen and graduating in 1992 as the all-time leading scorer in Academy history. Nicolao earned the Academy’s coveted Silver Sword award as the top senior male athlete.
Over the last 20 years, Nicolao has served as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s and women’s teams, posting a combined 844-312 (.730) record, going 402-163 (.712) with the men and 442-149 (.748) with the women. He took the Princeton men’s and women’s water polo teams to the NCAA tournament a combined seven times.
“Nothing rewarding in life comes easy and the Academy changed me for the better,” said Nicolao last November in reflecting on his college career.
“I look back on it and am thrilled because I wouldn’t be here today without that decision. Without it, I don’t know what kind of path I would have taken.”
Now, Nicolao is returning to his beloved alma mater to become the head coach of the Navy water polo program.
“I’ve been honored to have coached at an amazing school for the past 20 years,” said Nicolao in a statement last week on the Princeton sports website.
“I can’t thank enough the young men and women who have come through our programs for all the sacrifices and laughs. Navy is the only school I would have left Princeton for, and the chance to go back was something I could not say no to. Thank you to all of our alumni and friends for all of the support through the years.”
The departure of the affable Nicolao will leave a void for Princeton athletics, in and out of the water.
“Luis has done a phenomenal job here with both our men’s and women’s programs,” said Mollie Marcoux Samaan, Princeton’s director of athletics.
“We can’t thank him enough for his 20 years of dedication to Princeton Water Polo. In addition to all of his success through the years, he’s been an invaluable member of our department, one who always made us laugh and made Princeton an even better place to be every day. We will miss him and we wish him the best at Navy.”
As he heads to Annapolis, Nicolao will get to apply the lessons he has learned from coaching at Princeton to his new charges.
“My biggest success or achievement is trying to balance Princeton’s academics with athletics,” said Nicolao.
“I have to be flexible, sometimes less is better.”