Matt McCall, 35, who guided Chattanooga to a 48-18 record in two seasons, landed the UMass head coaching job in late March after the Minutemen fired Derek Kellogg. Suddenly Nolan, a senior shooting guard from Mount Carmel, was signed to a program in the market for a new coach.
"It kind of hurt a little bit," Nolan said of McCall's departure. "But at the same time I knew I had a good senior year and a good resume. Some people were telling me during the season that I should have waited. I thought I'd pick up some better offers."
Nolan's prediction was spot on. Clemson, Georgetown and Virginia all expressed interest in him after he was officially released from his Chattanooga letter of intent. George Washington, meanwhile, acted even more decisively.
"Coaches [from GW] called 30 minutes after" Nolan tweeted about reopening his recruitment. The Colonials had "just got word that [their] starting shooting guard [was] going overseas. [The coach] was like, 'You're a shooting guard. It's perfect timing how it worked out. We want you bad.''"
The stock of Nolan, who made his commitment to George Washington official last week, had risen considerably since the fall. The 6-foot-2, 175-pound guard averaged a career-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds and five assists per game.
A first-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro player, Nolan guided No. 5 Mount Carmel (29-11) to its most successful season; the Cougars were runners-up in the MIAA A Conference and Baltimore Catholic League tournament championships, and also made an appearance at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament.
Sensing that he'd have more options this time around, Nolan huddled with his AAU coach, 3D Select's James Lee, to formulate a list. He wanted to stay closer to his Baltimore home, so George Washington, Georgetown, George Mason and VCU were the targets. Nolan played pickup with the Hoyas, but said coaches told him they'd be interested in him for 2018 but not 2017. VCU, he said, was targeting JUCO guards. And a visit to George Mason never materialized.
"When GW first offered, my initial thing was I've got to go check out GW," Nolan said. "It's only an hour and a half away. As soon as they offered, I wanted to get an official set up fast. I committed on the visit."
Nolan, who plans to major in business, was immediately sold on GW's academics – "the GW degree carries weight," he said. But Nolan wanted to learn more on his visit about the Colonials coaching staff. In Maurice Joseph, who served as interim head coach this past season and got the full-time job after leading the team to a 20-15 record (including a 10-8 mark in Atlantic 10 play), Nolan found what he was looking for in a mentor.
"He's 31 years old, so he's not too far out from my generation," Nolan said. "Actually, when I was on the visit he was playing Kendrick Lamar's new album. Once I heard that, it was set in stone. He's a real good guy. He's the type of guy that cares about relationships with his players. He expects a lot of us right away and is giving me the opportunity to play right away. He's the all-around package as a coach that you'd like to play for."
Though he was set for months on his college future in Tennessee, Nolan said he couldn't be happier with how things ultimately played out.
"I wouldn't have changed it at all, to be honest," Nolan said. "Everything happened for a reason. Coach McCall, he has a great job for himself and his family. Now I'm going to George Washington, and that's good for my family as well. … I'm just embracing it and getting ready for it."
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