Tom Nissalke

Thomas Edward Nissalke (July 7, 1932 – August 22, 2019) was an American professional basketball coach in the National Basketball Association and American Basketball Association. He coached several teams in both leagues, and had an overall coaching record of 371–508.

Tom Nissalke
Personal information
Born(1932-07-07)July 7, 1932
Madison, Wisconsin
DiedAugust 22, 2019(2019-08-22) (aged 87)
Salt Lake City, Utah
Career information
CollegeFlorida State (1953–1954, 1956–1957)
Coaching career1957–1995
Career history
As coach:
1957–1962Wayland Academy
1962–1963Wisconsin (assistant)
1963–1968Tulane (assistant)
1968–1971Milwaukee Bucks (assistant)
1971–1972Dallas Chaparrals
1972–1973Seattle SuperSonics
1973–1974San Antonio Spurs
1974–1976Utah Stars
1976Puerto Rico
1976–1979Houston Rockets
1979–1982Utah Jazz
1982–1984Cleveland Cavaliers
1986–1987Jacksonville Jets
1990–1991Charlotte Hornets (assistant)
1990–1991Denver Nuggets (assistant)
1991–1992Winnipeg Thunder
Career highlights and awards

Coaching careerEdit

After a season with the Dallas Chaparrals (where he won ABA coach of the Year), Nissalke moved to the NBA with the Sonics for one season. He returned to the team, now in San Antonio, in 1973, bringing with him "a patterned, deliberate offense to San Antonio". During his tenure, the "Iceman" George Gervin had arrived from the Virginia Squires and was the center of the team. Though Nissalke's club was successful, he was fired in the beginning of the 1974–75 ABA season. Nissalke, who is a graduate of Florida State University, first got his start in coaching on the high school-prep level at the Wayland Academy in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. He later worked his way onto the college ranks at the University of Wisconsin and Tulane.

High School Coaching CareerEdit

Nissalke started his coaching career at Wayland Academy as the varsity boys basketball coach when he was hired by Ray Patterson (basketball), his former coach. Nissalke coached there from 1957 until 1962 when he went on to the college ranks, thus advancing his career. He finished with an overall record of 49–41 at Wayland.

1957–58 Overall record 6–12 Conference record 5–9

1958–59 Overall record 13–5

1959–60 Overall record 9–9

1960–61 Overall record 12–5 Conference record 12–2 (conference champions)

1961–62 Overall record 9–10

Early pro coaching careerEdit

Nissalke then went to Utah with the ABA's Stars, but the club folded, surprisingly, at mid-season in the ABA's last hurrah in 1975–76. According to Remember the ABA, he has the final game ball in his closet.

Later pro coaching careerEdit

Nissalke later coached the other Texas professional basketball team, the NBA's Houston Rockets (winning another Coach of the Year in the NBA in 76–77), followed by the Utah Jazz and Cleveland Cavaliers, retiring in 1985.

Nissalke holds the rare distinction of being named "Coach of the Year" in both the NBA and the ABA. He was also the commissioner of the short-lived National Basketball League in Canada in 1993–94. He had a combined coaching record of 371–508 (248–391 in NBA and 123–117 in ABA), with an 11–20 playoff record. He went 105–91 with the Chaparrals/Spurs, 13–32 with the Sonics, 18–26 with the Utah Stars, 124–122 with the Rockets, 60–124 with the Jazz, and 51–113 with the Cavaliers. He made it out of the first round of the playoffs just once, in 1977.

Other ProfessionalEdit

Nissalke's entrepreneurial activities included developing and owning several health clubs throughout Texas in addition to co-owning a successful bar and restaurant, Green Street in Salt Lake City, Utah for over twenty years.

After his coaching career, Nissalke took on revamping the YMCA of Utah and served as Chairman of the Board and later interim CEO. The YMCA had its most successful fundraising campaigns during his tenure.

Olympic CoachingEdit

Nissalke was the coach of Puerto Rico at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, finishing in 9th place with a 2–5 record. Nissalke's squad came close to upsetting the United States, losing by a 94–93 score.

Head coaching recordEdit

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win–loss %
Playoffs PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win–loss %
Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Dallas* 1971–72 84 42 42 .500 3rd in Western 4 0 4 .000 Lost in Div. Semifinals
Seattle 1972–73 45 13 32 .289 (fired)
San Antonio* 1973–74 84 45 39 .536 3rd in Western 7 3 4 .429 Lost in Div. Semifinals
San Antonio* 1974–75 28 18 10 .643 (resigned)
Utah* 1974–75 28 14 14 .500 4th in Western 6 2 4 .333 Lost in Div. Semifinals
Utah* 1975–76 16 4 12 .250 (folded)
Houston 1976–77 82 49 33 .598 1st in Central 12 6 6 .500 Lost in Conf. Finals
Houston 1977–78 82 28 54 .341 6th in Central Missed Playoffs
Houston 1978–79 82 47 35 .573 2nd in Central 2 0 2 .000 Lost in First Round
Utah 1979–80 82 24 58 .293 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Utah 1980–81 82 28 54 .341 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Utah 1981–82 20 8 12 .400 (fired)
Cleveland 1982–83 82 23 59 .280 5th in Central Missed Playoffs
Cleveland 1983–84 82 28 54 .341 4th in Central Missed Playoffs
Career 879 371 508 .422 31 11 20 .355

Family life and personalEdit

In January 2006, his wife of 46 years, Nancy, who also was a native of Madison, Wisconsin, died, succumbing to cancer. Together they had two children, son Thomas Jr., and daughter Holly, as well as two granddaughters Caroline Anne and Isabelle Grace.

On August 22, 2019, Nissalke died at his home in Salt Lake City, Utah.[1]


  1. ^ Rock, Brad (August 23, 2019). "Former Utah Jazz head coach Tom Nissalke dies at age 87". Deseret News. Retrieved August 24, 2019.

External linksEdit