Best Girls Basketball Coach 2014
Another national champion in USA TODAY High School Sports' America's Best contest series has been crowned. Jesse Nelson of Olpe (Kan.) High was voted as the top girls basketball coach in the nation after a monthlong contest.
Nelson received 513,293 votes in the final round to take the title – not bad considering Olpe's population is roughly 550 residents. Nelson also received 98,850 votes in the regional round and 23,481 votes in the state round.
So where did the votes come from?
Olpe athletic director Chris Schmidt gave partial credit to all of the former students Nelson has come to know throughout his time at Olpe. Nelson lives in Ople’s neighboring town of Emporia, which has a larger population – and many of the votes came from there as well.
“He’s been coaching here 35, 36 years – and been a part of this school for that long. He retired from teaching here four years ago, and is still coaching,” Schmidt said.
Nelson is closing in on 800 career wins with three state titles and two runner-up finishes. His team had a 77-game winning streak from 2010-2012.
Tim Miller of Hazel Green (Ala.) finished second with 274,036 votes, while John Harder of Southeast (Bradenton, Fla.) was third with 265,516.
The contest started with 255 coaches – five per state and Washington D.C. -- with those winners and two wild cards advancing to the regional round of 53. Ten finalists moved on from there.
In all, the contest attracted 4,223,203 votes.
And where was Nelson when the contest wrapped and it was announced that he won?
“He’s actually on his way to a state game right now,” Schmidt said.
The girls coach contest was the seventh installment in USA TODAY High School Sports' "Best Of" series, a competition that has drawn more than 100 million votes and attracted fans from all sections of the country – from big cities to tiny towns and everywhere in between – with 1,700 different schools being involved in one of the contests so far. No state has produced multiple winners, as past champions have hailed from Missouri, Vermont, Illinois, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma and now Kansas.
The "Best Of" contest series launched in November 2012 with the first best high school football rivalry competition, won by Brookfield vs. Marceline in Missouri. The teams celebrated their national title rivalry on in Brookfield.
In January, Hartford (Vt.) was crowned as the People's Champion high school football team. The monster of them all – the top high school mascot last spring – was won by the Centralia (Ill.) Orphans after 80 million total votes were cast during the competition.
Last fall, the best high school football coach competition crowned Philip Haywood of Belfry (Ky.) as its champion, while the second annual best high school football rivalry went to the North Carolina small-town matchup of Bunn vs. Louisburg. The most recent "Best Of" winner was Shane Cowherd of Edmond Memorial (Edmond, Okla.) taking the best boys basketball coach title.