C. Milton Wright girls basketball coach Nicole Nimmo likes to joke that the Mustangs have nearly 60 years of coaching experience on their bench.
The punch line is that Nimmo is only a second-year coach.
After a standout high school career at C. Milton Wright and just two years removed from playing college basketball at Hofstra University, Nimmo has returned to her alma mater and led the Mustangs to a 9-6 record, 6-1 in Harford County.
Nimmo, who was a junior on the C. Milton Wright team that went 21-1 in 1995-96, is quick to deflect a lot of the credit to her veteran assistants.
Always close by her side is Bill Georg, who spent 34 years at Bel Air coaching either the boys varsity of JV basketball teams, and Gloria Leidlich, who was a JV and varsity coach at C. Milton Wright for 23 years.
Leidlich retired in 1995 before Nimmo's senior season.
"It was like a whirlwind, and I wasn't even sure I would take the job until it happened," said Nimmo, who spent last year coaching volleyball, basketball and softball at Bellmore Merrick High School in Long Island, N.Y.
The job became available when ex-coach John Harvey left to pursue his master's degree.
"I was only 3 1/2 hours away, but with the holidays, and all the coaching I did, I had to be closer to home. Plus, I think most people would like to be able to come back and coach in their school. I want to do for these kids what my coach did for me. I want to help them get the scholarship that I got."
One of Nimmo's first orders of business was convincing her old coach to join her. Nimmo said that Leidlich, who had been retired from coaching for six years, had reservations, but Nimmo sensed she is enjoying life as a coach again.
"We tease them because it's like two different generations," said senior point guard Jess Johnson. "Coach Leidlich will ask, 'Who's going to come back from this team and coach the next team here.' "
For longtime head coach Georg, who taught at Bel Air from 1964 to 2000 before retiring, the challenge was adapting to life as an assistant coach.
"I think I've done OK. I've been able to sit on the bench and keep my mouth shut most of the time," said Georg. "The kids respond to [Nimmo] very well."
The three inherited a team that lost four starters to graduation.
But C. Milton Wright - relying on the senior leadership of Val Bish and Johnson and the emergence of sophomore center Janine Luber - has lost only to county leader Fallston (9-0) in the conference.
If the Mustangs and Cougars both win out, C. Milton Wright would need to beat Fallston on Feb. 25 to be conference co-champions.
"We said to them the other day that if we could've filmed the first day of practice to our practices now, it is 110 percent better," said Nimmo.
Players also have noticed a difference in Nimmo.
"She talks a lot more now," said Bish. "She is more like a head coach and gives us the perspective from someone who knows what it takes to get to the next level."