Nick Birkey photo

Nick Birkey

BOURBONNAIS — Olivet Nazarene University announced Wednesday interim men’s basketball coach Nick Birkey will remain as the head coach for the Tigers.

Birkey is the fourth head coach in the program’s 53-year history. He replaces legendary coach Ralph Hodge, who died after a short illness in November.

An assistant for Hodge the past 11 years, Birkey stepped into the interim role at the beginning of the season because of the legendary Hodge’s illness.

“I am thankful and excited for the opportunity to lead Olivet Nazarene University men’s basketball, a program that is built on faith, family and pursuing excellence in everything we do,” Birkey said in a release.

“It is an absolute honor to be only the fourth head coach in the storied 53-year history of the program. I am humbled to lead a program that was founded by C.W. Ward and taken to new and extraordinary heights throughout the 39-year career of NAIA Hall of Famer Ralph Hodge. I look forward to leading our student-athletes into the next chapter, where we will continue pursue championships while developing champions.

“Ultimately, my purpose is [to] glorify God in all I do, represent Olivet Nazarene University well and give everything I am to our student athletes and program. “

Birkey led the Tigers to an outright Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship and an automatic bid to the NAIA Division II National Tournament, their first since 2016. ONU finished the season with a 23-9 overall record and a 16-4 mark in the CCAC.

“I am really happy for Nick and our program,” said Gary Newsome, Director of Athletics for ONU. “He has been in our program for 11 years assisting a Hall of Fame Coach in Ralph Hodge. I’m proud to reward that kind of loyalty.”

After the regular season, Birkey was selected by the conference coaches as the CCAC Coach of the Year. He also was selected as an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association NAIA Division II Coach of the Year.

“The future is bright for ONU men’s basketball. There is much to be excited for following an outstanding 2018-19 season, where we experienced adversity and loss but also found ways to celebrate,” Birkey said

“We earned our 13th CCAC regular season championship and won 20-plus games for the 27th time in program history. Our success earned us a trip to the NAIA Division II National Championship, our 19th appearance at the national tournament since 1989. We return everyone from a 23-win season and are thrilled about our recruiting class. In all, the quality of the young men in our program is why we are successful. I am privileged for the opportunity to lead them.”

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