The Lady Grizzlies (23-7, 14-3 Region 7AAAAA) fell to Osborne in triple overtime and eventually beat Pope to take the No. 3 seed from region into the state playoffs. Creekview then upset Villa Rica in the first round before coming up a point shy against Stephenson, 40-39, and being denied a trip to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
“Some people say they would rather get blown out than lose by one, but I wouldn’t,” Nolan said. “I would rather lose by one and at least know you were close.”
Through it all, Nolan, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in September and underwent surgery prior to the season, never missed a practice despite ongoing treatments.
“We had a good season,” he said. “Of course, we had a lot of people sick and hurt at times in the year, and it was kind of a surprise that we did so well early. We had a lot of adversity. I was sick most of the year, and that was iffy at times. I thought our seniors were good leaders through the adversity.”
For leading the Lady Grizzlies to success despite the obstacles, Nolan is the 2013-14 Cherokee Tribune Girls Basketball Coach of the Year.
Nolan points out that he didn’t go it alone. Jim Nicholson, a retired coach, joined the Creekview staff and took on many of the coaching duties early in the season when Nolan was feeling the effects of the cancer and the treatment.
“I never missed practice, but I would sit on the sidelines because I felt weak,” Nolan said. “Around Christmas time, I took over and (Nicholson) took the assistant role. Before that, I was more the assistant, which was kind of weird.”
In addition to feeling fatigued quickly, Nolan said he head would feel foggy.
“That was all part of the side effects (of the treatment),” he said.
Nolan said that stepping back and watching practices and games didn’t give him any new insight on the game — just a few more technical fouls.
“I got some technicals this year that I usually don’t get,” he said. “I would say some things that (the officials) normally hear from the head coach and look the other way, but when they hear it from the bench — nothing derogatory — but they hear you say something as an assistant, they will pop you with one of those. I got a few more technicals than I usually get. That was kind of stressful.”
If one thing frustrates Nolan about the season, it is that a team from DeKalb County ended Creekview’s season for the third for fourth straight year.
“That is what I am trying to do — get this team to elite status,” Nolan said. “We are close, but we aren’t quite there. We just keep working on it. I’m just trying to get us past them hump of the second round of the playoffs. Going to the second round isn’t too bad, though, either.”
If Creekview can break through to that elite level, it will have to do it without some of the key members of this year’s team. Dee and Danyelle Blankinship will both graduate, as will Lauren Johnson, who was a key part after rejoining the team midway through the season, as she recovered from a foot fracture. Ella Wilkie and Courtney Ashworth will also graduate.
The Lady Grizzlies will be young next season, but Nolan is looking forward to watching a new group mature and become leaders.
His health is also looking positive.
“I just finished up my 12th treatment this week,” he said. “I’m supposed to be done, but I will have a CAT scan next month to determine if I’m clear or not. But they pretty much told me that the treatment was all precautionary and that they feel the surgery had gotten it all. That is what I’m hoping for anyway.”
Nolan doesn’t plan on leaving Creekview any time soon.
“I plan on doing this until I retire,” he said. “I’m going to stay right here at Creekview. I’ve got a good deal here and I’m not going anywhere.”