Stadium Network released its list of the top men’s basketball assistants in the Ohio Valley Conference, with Belmont and Tennessee State each landing one on the list.
Belmont’s Brian Ayers was the No. 1-ranked assistant and TSU’s Jerry Nichols was tied for the No. 5 spot on the list, which was voted on by OVC coaches.
Ayers, a Clarksville native, is a graduate of Lipscomb University, where he was a two-year captain for the Bison. He started his coaching career at Austin Peay as an assistant coach before moving to Vanderbilt for two seasons and ultimately serving on the Belmont staff for the last 22 years. He’s been the Bruins associate head coach for the last nine years.
Ayers helped Nick Muszynski become the first Bruin in the NCAA Division I era to earn first-team All-America honors as both a freshman and sophomore. Eight of the last nine all-conference post players Ayers coached have gone on to sign professional basketball contracts.
“Brian touches all the bases a head coach would want,” former Belmont coach Rick Byrd told Stadium Network. “[He has a] high basketball IQ, does a terrific job on scouting reports of opposing teams, really detailed and extremely loyal to Belmont and the basketball program…He’s an extremely good recruiter, very good at identifying the kind of player Belmont has been successful with…He deserves the opportunity to be a D-1 head coach; he is more than ready.”
Nichols is a 2006 graduate of Arkansas State. He served as an assistant at Walters State from 2006-07 before moving to the Union College staff from 2007-09. He has head coaching experience at lower-level college programs, including Motlow State (2009-13) and Southwest Tennessee Community College (2012-18), compiling a 200-59 record, before joining Penny Collins’ staff at TSU in 2018.
Nichols won five Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Coach of the Year awards, guiding Motlow State to an NJCAA Tournament berth in his final season and Southwest Tennessee to the NJCAA Elite Eight.
“[He’s a] former Juco head coach,” Collins told Stadium Network. “[He’s] a relentless worker, a great basketball mind and a top-notch recruiter. [He] will not be with me long.”
In addition to Ayers at No. 1, the rest of the list includes No. 2 Shane Nichols (Murray State), No. 3 Tim Kaine (Murray State), No. 4 Chase Richardson (Jacksonville State) and No. 5 (three-way tie) Jonathan Mattox (Morehead State), Tommy Wade (Jacksonville State) and Nichols.