On Suffolk’s campus, Jim Nelson is “Coach.” It’s the name used by his assistant, the interns, the locksmith, and multitudes of athletes, colleagues, and staff. Though he retired from the head basketball coaching spot over a decade ago to take on the role of athletic director full time, the name sticks. It’s a familiar, welcoming title, earned by an engaging laugh, a self-deprecating wit, and an extended reach during Nelson’s more than four decades at the University.
But he hasn’t always been Coach. In his corner office on the second floor of the Ridgeway Building, Nelson, 66, leans back in his chair with his arms folded across his chest, recalling a time when he went by another name: Dmitri Nestios. Nestios was Nelson’s alias, adopted six years after taking the assistant athletic director and assistant basketball coach jobs at Suffolk.
Nelson had been a standout guard at Boston College, and—after graduating and taking his first job at Suffolk—had been playing semi-professional basketball around Boston. When a friend brought a recruiter from a Greek league team to check out Nelson’s talents, Jim wowed the scout with his famous dribbling routine: Lying on his back, he dribbled with two hands, then with just one finger on each hand, then just the pinky, and then while doing situps. The team offered him a contract and renamed him Dmitri Nestios, which translated to “Jim from the Islands.” Because, as Nelson was told, you had to be Greek to play. Read more