After 24 years leading Hawks, MTHS boys basketball coach Nalin Sood stepping down

Mountlake Terrace Coach Nalin Sood celebrates his team’s fourth-place finish at the WIAA State 3A Boys Basketball Tournament on March 4, 2024. (Photo by Joe Christian)

After 37 years in the coaching ranks of Mountlake Terrace Hawks’ boys basketball — and the past 24 as the program’s head coach — Nalin Sood is stepping down from the post.

“I can’t believe it’s been 24 years already,” Sood said.

Sood made the surprise announcement earlier this week after months of discussions with his wife Kara and his former coach and mentor at Mountlake Terrace, Roger Ottmar. “I’ve had enough conversations,” Sood stated. “I just knew it was time.”

Sood compiled a 381-189 win-loss record over his 24-year head coaching career at Mountlake Terrace and led 15 Hawk squads to berths in state championship tournaments. Four Sood-coached teams brought home trophies from state tourneys: third place in state in 2005, fourth place in 2013 and 2024, and sixth place in 2022.

While Sood explained that he has loved being a part of Mountlake Terrace basketball ever since his playing days in the mid-1980s, he decided to step away from heading up the program in order to give more time and energy to his family, his teaching of business classes at the school and his role as executive director of the WIBCA (Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association).

“I’m so lucky that I’m not running away from anything,” Sood said of his resignation from coaching Terrace basketball. “I’m so lucky I don’t have a bad taste in my mouth. I am so lucky that I get emotional talking about it — because when you give up something that you love doing, it’s hard to say goodbye.”

Sood said he has been thinking about stepping down for months but initially didn’t tell anyone other than his wife in order to keep the focus of the 2023-2024 season on his team.

“Everything we do in our program is about the team,” Sood explained. “Everything we do is about being selfless. When nobody cares who gets the credit it’s amazing what you can accomplish. If I would have announced it (the resignation) earlier, it probably would have been the narrative of the season. I didn’t want it to be the narrative.”

While ensuring that he is in great health, Sood admitted that the many hours he put into coaching has been a strain at times.

“The 80-hour weeks start getting to you. I’m not 30 years old anymore,” Sood said. “There’s stress that comes with it. And the stress carries over to other things and I need to bring that back in. And to run a really comprehensive program you have to deliver to a lot of different people. And when you’re delivering to a lot of different people they don’t know you’re delivering to others. And it really, really challenges you.”

Sood also admitted that the standards he and his coaching predecessors have set in the Terrace program is certainly a contributing factor to his decision to pass it on to someone else.

“I believe in our system being done a certain way and it takes a lot of work to do it that way,” Sood said. “It’s a lot of work, a lot of hours.”

“Somebody said you could dial it back,” he continued. “Then I’m not being true to the kids and I’m not being true to myself. I can’t look them in the eye knowing I’ve dialed things back. I can’t look them in the eye knowing I’m not there as often as I should be. That’s the only way I know how to do it and it takes a lot to do that.”

Coach Nalin Sood instructs his team during a game. (File photo by Jonah Wallace)

“The responsibilities of coaching are great and there are a fair amount. And they’re awesome. And it’s a great thing to do. If I had to hit rewind and play, I’d hit the same play button and do it all over again. I can’t tell people how great a career this has been, to be a coach here at Terrace high school.”

Sood’s coaching career at Mountlake Terrace began even before he received his diploma from the school in June 1987. After his senior season suiting up for the Hawks came to an end, Sood was asked to coach the players that would be returning the next season in a spring league.

That request started a 13-year run for Sood as an assistant coach under the tutelage of Ottmar, who served as the Terrace head coach from 1977 to 2001 before Sood took over the head coaching role.

“He saw something in me that I didn’t,” Sood said of Ottmar. “He saw something 37 years ago that I didn’t know I had.”

Sood’s desire to be a part of the Mountlake Terrace basketball program came before he ever stepped foot into the school. His entire family were fans of the Hawk teams in the 1970s, a golden age for the program that included a 1977 state title.

“In 1977 the team won the state championship and my parents left me at home with a sitter,” Sood recalled. “I was 7 years old at the time. And then they came home and my dad had a picture of the ‘77 team and he gave it to me and I stuck it up on my wall. I said ‘someday I hope to be a part of that program.’ Funny how things work out.”

An even-younger Nalin Sood had decided at age 6 just what role he would want when older after watching on television a Tommy Heinsohn-coached Boston Celtic squad win the 1976 NBA championship.

“I wanted to be a coach and I wanted to be a coach wearing a blazer and a dress shirt and slacks,” Sood said. “I got to live my childhood dream.”

Sood’s resignation comes just a couple weeks after the 2023-2024 season ended with the Hawks bringing home the fourth-place trophy from the WIAA State 3A Boys Basketball Tournament at the Tacoma Dome. Sood and this year’s squad will meet one final time for a season-ending team banquet next week.

Sood had initially planned on tendering his resignation after this season’s banquet but decided to announce it this week in order for the school and the district to begin the process of seeking a new coach for the program.

“Now we get 10 days to move ahead and see who we can find; start advertising it and get great applicants and move ahead with it,” Sood said.

Nalin Sood met with members of the press Tuesday after tendering his resignation the day before as long-time head coach of the Mountlake Terrace Hawks boys basketball program. (Photo by Doug Petrowski)

While the decision of who will become just the fourth boys basketball head coach in the 63-year history of Mountlake Terrace High School is up to school and district officials, Sood said he is willing to provide assistance if asked.

“If they want my input on people that apply, I’m happy to provide that,” Sood said. “If they ask, I’m willing to help just because I care about this program.”

Sood hinted that he may have some names of worthy applicants for the job, including some that have served as assistant coaches in his program. “There’s a couple of people at the top of the list because I’ve worked with them and I know them,” Sood said.

Sood also left open the possibility of returning to the Terrace basketball program in a lesser role sometime in the future.

“Somebody asked me today, ‘would I ever come back and be an assistant?’ I would for the right person,” Sood shared. “If it’s a Terrace guy or someone that I know, someone that’s been part of this program, I’d come back. I wouldn’t mind having them instruct me what to do. But I need to stay away for a year.”

After his long reign over a high school program rich in history, Sood said he will let others determine what kind of impact he made to Mountlake Terrace basketball.

That’s for someone else to say,” Sood emphasized. “However somebody wants to describe our legacy under myself and the co-coaches, time will answer that one in how things carry over into the future.”

“I’m just looking forward to the next chapter of Terrace basketball,” he concluded. “And no one will be happier when they take it to the next level than I will be.”

Mountlake Terrace Hawks Boys Basketball Head Coaches 

1960-1977 – Merle Blevins

1977-2001 – Roger Ottmar 

2001-2024 – Nalin Sood 

2024 –  ?    –

— By Doug Petrowski

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