Winthrop males’s basketball founder Nield Gordon dies at 91


Nield Gordon, heart, was inducted into the Winthrop Hall of Fame in 2005.

Photo courtesy of Winthrop athletics

The father of the Winthrop males’s basketball program has handed away.

Nield Gordon, the person who based the Winthrop basketball program in 1978 and helped develop the college’s athletic division within the years after that, died on Monday night time. He was 91 years previous.

The Winthrop athletic division confirmed the information to The Herald on Tuesday afternoon. Winthrop interim athletic director Chuck Rey, in response to Gordon’s passing, mentioned in a press release to The Herald that “words cannot describe the lasting impression Nield had on Winthrop University, the athletic department and the game of basketball.”

“Neild’s teams averaged 20 wins per season, a standard teams strive to live up to today, while also playing a significant role in setting up future success with the construction of the Coliseum under his watch as athletic director,” Rey wrote. “We hope Eagles basketball has made him proud over the years. We would like to offer heartfelt condolences to the basketball community, our Winthrop alumni that had the good fortune to play under his tutelage, and especially his family during this time.”

Word of Gordon’s passing didn’t take lengthy to flow into in school athletics circles. The Brunswick, Maryland native was a fixture in South Carolina sports activities — as a participant and coach and pioneer.

Andy Solomon, who was Winthrop’s first sports activities data director and one in all Gordon’s first staff, reminisced about Gordon on Tuesday afternoon.

What Solomon will bear in mind most about his “mentor and friend” is his willingness to be modern at Winthrop — doing lots to attach the college’s athletic division with Winthrop alumni, Winthrop college and the broader Rock Hill group.

“We created traditions,” Solomon advised The Herald when requested about their time starting Winthrop athletics within the late Seventies. “We created the Eagle Club. We created the baseball team. We created the basketball team. The sports information office. The training room. We started cheerleading. We had a dance team.

“You gotta remember, this was 40 to 45 years ago. We just always said, ‘Why not? Let’s try it.’ … Nield set the tone of, ‘Work hard, do the best you can and the results will come.’ And the results came due to his leadership.”

Gordon’s path to Winthrop

Gordon got here to Winthrop in 1977. He arrived already as an achieved coach.

Formerly a basketball participant at Furman (whose jersey is amongst six retired by Paladin basketball), Gordon served within the U.S. Army earlier than starting his teaching profession at Belmont Abbey College in 1956. He later made a reputation for himself in his 15-year tenure as head coach at Newberry College — which included the 1976-77 season, when Gordon coached Newberry to the NAIA nationwide championship recreation.

Gordon had 5 of his Newberry gamers on that 1976-77 crew observe him to Winthrop in 1977. In doing so he ushered in a number of the first males on the campus of Winthrop, which for almost a century had been an all-women’s faculty.

NAIA guidelines compelled the WU males’s basketball program to take a seat out the 1977 season, so this system started the next yr in 1978. And his crew was welcomed by the Rock Hill group.

As former Herald sports activities editor wrote in a 2016 story honoring the late Bennie Bennett (one in all Gordon’s first gamers at Winthrop and WU’s first 1,000-point scorer): “Bennett and his teammates were a big deal in Rock Hill, the first men’s college sports team in town. They packed the cramped gym at Sullivan Middle School on Saturday nights. During basketball season that was the place to be.”

Nield Gordon mug shot.jpg
Nield Gordon Photo courtesy of Winthrop athletics

Gordon spent 9 years as Winthrop’s head basketball coach and athletic director. He coached his program to 160 wins in that span.

Among his most notable feats as coach at Winthrop: His first Winthrop crew of 1978-79 compiled a file of 25 wins and 10 losses and have become the primary crew to qualify for the NAIA District 6 playoffs in its first yr of existence.

“At that time, they had 17 teams in the NAIA District 6,” Gordon mentioned of that first season, in a video in 2017 posted by the Winthrop athletics division. “We were No. 1 in the District 6 that first year, and we got beat by one point at Lander College, and we didn’t make the NAIA tournament that year.

“But two of those players, Bennie Bennett and Rick Reese, are in the Hall of Fame. And Ronnie and Donnie Creamer, their numbers were retired and hung on the wall in the Eagles Club.”

His 1980-81 crew, too, was particular. Per his Hall of Fame bio on Winthrop’s web site, that crew received 31 video games and have become simply the third crew in South Carolina collegiate historical past to win 30 or extra video games in a single season.

Gordon as an athletic director

Gordon’s impression on the inspiration of Winthrop athletics extends past his teaching file.

He had a big position within the building of Winthrop Coliseum, and he was answerable for making Winthrop a constitution member of the Big South Conference, which might compete on the NCAA degree.

Gordon was inducted within the Winthrop Hall of Fame in 2005. He can be a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame, the Newberry Hall of Fame, the Frederick County (Md.) Hall of Fame, the NAIA Hall of Fame and the Furman Hall of Fame.

Gordon was a father of three daughters — Kelly, Lucy and Angela — and spent his retirement in Anderson, South Carolina.

Funeral preparations have but to be introduced, per Furman athletics communications director Hunter Reid as of on-line publication time.

“He was my boss,” Solomon mentioned. “But he was also my mentor, and he was my friend. And that’s a unique combination.”

This story was initially printed May 3, 2022 3:40 PM.

Alex Zietlow writes about sports activities and the methods by which they intersect with life in York, Chester and Lancaster counties for The Herald, the place he has been an editor and reporter since August 2019. Zietlow has received 9 S.C. Press Association awards in his profession, together with First Place finishes in Feature Writing, Sports Enterprise Writing and Education Beat Reporting. He additionally acquired two Top-10 awards within the 2021 APSE writing contest and was nominated for the 2022 U.S. Basketball Writers Association’s Rising Star award for his protection of the Winthrop males’s basketball crew.

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