Former Kansas basketball guard Nick Bradford remembers consulting two of his college mentors — former Jayhawks head coach Roy Williams and assistant Neil Dougherty — about his future career path.
“I told them I was going to be an agent,” Bradford, who played at KU from 1997 to 2000, said Tuesday. “They said, ‘No, you are going to be a coach.’ ”
Turns out “they” were right.
Bradford on Tuesday was announced as girls head basketball coach at Olathe North High School.
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Since playing professionally in Iceland, France, Romania and Finland from 2001 to 2011, he has worked as a men’s assistant coach at Labette County Community College and Missouri Southern and was boys head coach at Mexico (Mo.) High School.
“Coach Williams and (the late) Coach D knew I was a people person and could see the game well, see the big picture defensively and things like that,” said Bradford, who has also worked with local youth programs KC Run GMC and most recently the Missouri Phenom.
“They told me what I was going to be before I knew it. I love it. I couldn’t imagine being anything else,” Bradford added, noting he has a “passion” for the game of basketball.
Bradford last season coached the boys team at Mexico High. He’s still involved as spring and summertime girls coach with the Phenom.
“I love teaching young people, being lucky enough to coach grassroots programs, boys and girls,” Bradford said. “I love helping kids get to college. It’s fun to help kids reach their goals.”
Olathe North athletic director Josh Price remembers Bradford as a player.
“I graduated from K-State in 2001, so clearly I know Nick in that capacity,” Price said. “I think he brings some knowledge and kind of a pathway for our girls to work hard when they are in high school during the season and out of season. He knows all the things it’s going to take and can ultimately speak to what it takes to get to the next level.
“You say KU basketball, I think it gets everybody’s attention. More importantly than anything he played collegiate basketball. I know it’s what some of our girls are really hoping to do. When he talks about what it took for him to get there, I know that will give them a lot of information and knowledge and belief, that, ‘If he did it that way I’ll do it the same way and I’ll have a lot of success as well.’ ”
Of course it’s not all about getting to the next level.
“When I met Nick, I felt he was a relationship-first kind of guy. Speaking to other coaches who have worked with him, they said that (communication) is a big strength of his. His knowledge of basketball goes without saying,” Price said. “He has played collegiately but also coached collegiately and in the high school ranks. He has a diverse background coaching juco ball, Division II, the 4A level in Missouri and has ties to some summer groups that I think will be really a positive for our girls. More importantly it’s the relationships and how coaches speak to those relationships he’s built with his players.”
Bradford, who is married to Brittani and has two sons (Quenci, 10, and Isaiah, 6), said he hopes to attend as many KU home men’s and women’s basketball games as possible.
“Playing overseas I’d only get to one game a year,” said Bradford, a native of Fayetteville, Ark. “I’d go to a game at Christmas. When I got in coaching, it still would usually be one game a year. The opportunity will be right there 30 miles down the road. The last two years since coach Schneider (Brandon, KU women’s coach) has been there, I’ve worked KU’s elite camp. I know all that crew (of coaches) and hopefully will get in to see a lot of games.”