By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Jason Deshun Nichols knows the importance of a name.
In his introductory press conference as the new Millington Lady Trojan Basketball head coach, Nichols mention peers like Tommy Warren and Stan Gatlin. He expressed gratitude to Millington educators like Superintendent James “Jimbo” Griffin and Millington Central High School Principal Mark Neal.
Then Nichols started rolling off traditional girls’ basketball powerhouses in West Tennessee like Memphis Central, Manassas, Bartlett, Munford and the great Millington teams of the late 2000s. But the final name he referenced was his late father John Nichols Sr.
“He laid the foundation to get me to where I am today,” he said. “It started with my father and my mother Johnnie Mae Nichols.”
Jason said his mother will be at every game possible to watch her son in his first varsity head coaching job.
“I first want to give thanks to God without Him none of this would be possible,” Nichols said. “I grew up playing (football and basketball) out of North Frayser Community Center under the late Maurice Johnson and late Sherman Jones. They both taught me how to play the game the right way.
“I came back from college and had a little cousin playing basketball over at Hamilton named Victoria White,” he continued. “I decided to help her. I said once she leave I’m going to get out of the game. Every since 2010, she started playing AAU and I’ve been in it ever since.”
Before Nichols took to the sidelines for hoops, he was a two-sports standout at Trezevant High School in Memphis from 1998-2000. He earned a college scholarship to play football.
Then in 2007 he gave up the gridiron game to work with the Memphis Elite AAU program which is now the Bluff City Girls Basketball program. Then in 2010, Nichols moved to high school girls basketball becoming the head assistant coach with the Manassas Lady Tigers.
“When I first started, it was a grind at Manassas,” he recalled. “We didn’t have a lot of talent. But what Coach Warren and me did was get into that gym everyday. Started with the basics, the fundamentals of basketball. We were grinding with the girls day in and day out.
“We put in work, that’s all we know how to do is work,” Nichols added. “By 2012-13, someone put in a paper calling us MPD (Manassas Plays Defense). I love to defend. We’re going to press. We’re going to get up and down. I am a tough coach but I’m going to pull the best out of them.”
Manassas used defense to have a special four-year run similar to the 2007-10 run for the Millington Lady Trojans, with four straight Sub-State games. The Lady Tigers won more than 100 games from 2010-14 with four City Championships and back-to-back State Tournament appearances in Class 2A.
Before his final stop at Memphis Central in Class 3A, Nichols was the head assistant coach at Raleigh-Egypt.
“I am not new to Double A because I was at Manassas and Raleigh-Egypt,” he noted about his new job. “So I pretty much know about the Covingtons up there. You’ve got Haywood, you’ve got Bolivar and you’ve got Ripley. I’m a first year head coach but not new to the leagues.
“My eyes have seen the leagues,” Nichols continued. “I’ve been in the battles. I know what its going to take to get Millington back to where it was when Coach Stan Gatlin had it in those days.”
Nichols said he wants to restore the roar in the “Trojan Dome.” During the days of Gatlin, Millington hosted three-straight Sub-State games in the William Osteen Gymnasium.
Nichols said his Lady Trojans will spend time away from their home gym to get a better understanding of what it takes to reach the college level and see other teams are out there putting in work as well.
“I’m going to let them know about my background,” he said. “I have a big relationship with college coaches. I’m going to reach out to them when they’re available and try to get them into my gym to talk to my kids. We will visit Ole Miss games, Memphis games.
“I’m going to get them out there and let them see we have to grind,” Nichols added. “I’m going to take them to some CBU games. Not every player has to play Division I. There is a school for every young lady. We’re going to go visit games, go work and see what the atmosphere of college is like.”
Nichols said he is excited to learn the atmosphere of Millington and Millington Central High School over the next few weeks. And he concluded his players will learn the environment of his program quickly. It’s a mixture of basketball fundamentals with football intensity.
“I do bring a little bit of that,” he acknowledged. “My energy is going to always be at 1,000. If you don’t have that energy, you and me are going to have a problem. I’m going to need that energy. I’m going to go all the way in and give you all I’ve got. I’m going to go the extra mile for you.
“I’m about building,” he concluded. “My thing with these young ladies I am about to encounter, I’m about accountability and I am about character. We’re going to stand out in that school building and on that court.”