Gophers men’s basketball assistant coach Nate Pomeday poses for a photo at the Gopher Road Trip: Chalk Talk in Detroit Lakes, Minn., on May 28, 2015.
Nate Pomeday’s favorite place to play college basketball when he was at Northwestern University was Minnesota’s Williams Arena, and now he’s back — this time as a coach.
Pomeday returned to the arena last year as director of basketball operations for Minnesota, and on May 19 head coach Richard Pitino promoted him to assistant coach.
The trip back to the Big Ten took plenty of twists and turns for Pomeday, from taking control of a new basketball program at a very young age to becoming a Division I assistant and juggling those responsibilities while caring for a sick child.
And now, it’s taken him back to Minnesota.
“It’s been an awesome journey,” Pomeday said. “It’s been a learning process. I think it’s something that’s made me stronger and made my family stronger.”
Starting at the top
Pomeday began his career in college basketball at Northwestern University, where he was a guard for the Wildcats from 1995 -99.
His playing career ended afterwards, but it didn’t take him long to land a job that allowed him to stick to the sport.
At the age of 23, Pomeday started his coaching career — as the head of a Division II program.
In 2000, Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond, Indiana, started a basketball program with Pomeday at the helm.
Pomeday coached the Crimson Wave for four seasons, compiling a 32-56 overall record. At the time of his hiring, Pomeday was the youngest head coach in the country, and he said he’s applied lessons from his tenure to the rest of his coaching career.
“You really have to plug into each kid individually,” Pomeday said. “Have a relationship with them, get to know them because it’s a relationship-based business.”
Following his tenure at Calumet College, Pomeday served as an assistant coach at Lake Forest Academy, a college preparatory school, for three seasons before college basketball came calling again.
Moving on up
In 2008, Pomeday took an assistant coaching position at Oregon State under Craig Robinson.
Robinson had tried to convince Pomeday to come work for him before, and when he took over as head coach of the Beavers he saw another opportunity to integrate Pomeday as part of his staff.
“Through my relationships, I got to see [Pomeday] coaching, communicating,” Robinson said. “Again, I tried to get him to come work for me, and this time I had the pleasure of getting him to say yes.”
Pomeday served as an assistant coach for six years under Robinson, who is now a college basketball analyst at ESPN.
“My assistant coaches got a chance to do a little bit of everything,” Robinson said. “Nate was good at all facets of the game. For me, he was a terrific assistant who loved the game.”
Robinson said Pomeday had the opportunity to have a hand in running practices, scheduling and recruiting.
During his time at Oregon State, Pomeday primarily worked with guards.
Thanks in part to Pomeday’s work, guard Jared Cunningham was Oregon State’s first NBA Draft pick in 14 years when he was drafted 24th overall in 2012.
While he was at Oregon State, Pomeday and his wife Heidi faced a challenge away from the basketball court. Their daughter, Everley, suffered a number of health problems early in her life.
“We knew she had a club foot before she was born, so we were prepared for that,” Pomeday said. “But as she got older, we just kept noticing that her knee was giving out. It didn’t feel right.”
Pomeday and his wife went to a Portland, Ore., hospital for more insight. When they didn’t get the answers they wanted, they took Everley to Seattle for a second opinion.
After meeting with a specialist, the Pomedays found out Everley had hip dysplasia in both of her hips and a condition that caused her kneecap to dislocate and the muscles to grow out of place.
Everley had surgery to correct the issues, but was in a full body cast for a couple months.
Pomeday suddenly had to juggle his responsibilities as an assistant at a Division I basketball program with caring for his young daughter.
“I’ve got to be a great coach, I’ve got to be a great husband and I’ve got to be a great dad. You don’t really have a choice to suck at any one of those three,” Pomeday said. “It’s something you can’t really explain to people until they’re parents and kind of get it. You do everything you possibly can.”
Everley had to wear corrective boots at night until she was about 3-and-a-half years old, but now Pomeday said she is running, jumping and wearing princess dresses like any other 3-year-old.
She also happens to love basketball, and Pomeday said she and Pitino’s daughter, Ava, can be found drawing on the dry-erase boards in the locker room during game days.
That same locker room is where Pomeday hopes to use his prior experience to help Minnesota.
“Nate was the natural choice for a variety of reasons,” Pitino said in a statement. “He’s hardworking, loyal and understands what our culture is about on a daily basis.
He proved to be a great recruiter at Oregon State and understands the landscape of the Big Ten.”
Pomeday’s former boss thinks his previous stops will only help him as the Gophers try to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 season.
“I think the folks in Minnesota have a great opportunity to see what his style and personality bring to the Gophers ball club,” Robinson said. “Drawing from all of his [coaching] experiences really makes him an effective coach.”
Ben Gotz contributed to this report.