"Big Mike" Nembhard comes by his nickname honestly, as at 6'5", he towers over many of the kids who are inclined to call out to him that way. Mike, who spent two years at Ithaca High School as the junior varsity (JV) basketball coach, leading the team to a winning season in 2018, is now headed to Newfield to work with the JV boys’ basketball team there. He will soon be attending a coaches’ meeting and try-outs will begin in early November.
I’ve known Mike for many years, ever since we worked together for the Tompkins County Youth Advocate Program (YAP), where I held down the fort in the office and Mike worked the front lines, serving as a mentor to kids at risk and struggling families.
He was well-liked by everyone and took his work very seriously, doing whatever it took to keep youth out of the system and keep families together. Before YAP, Mike worked for six years at the William George Agency for Children’s Services in Freeville, New York.
I met to talk with Mike for this story at Beverly J. Martin Elementary School (BJM), where he has worked for the past 12 years wherever and however needed, as an aide, teacher’s assistant, crisis intervention and even a bodyguard if the situation warranted it.
For 10 years, Mike was the Program Coordinator for the BJM’s After School Academic Plus Program, and it was there at the school that I heard him addressed by some of the littlest kids as “Big Mike!”
He will continue his work at BJM, right along with his Newfield coaching duties. On a personal note, lots of memories came back to me when walking down that sloping hallway towards the cafeteria, as the BJM building once housed Boynton middle school students, me included. I felt a bit like a teenager again!
Mike studied business management and elementary education. He attended the University of Charleston in West Virginia on a basketball scholarship. He has been married to Stacy for 12 years, and between them, they raised eight kids and adopted three more. Mike said all of his children are headed in different professional directions.
Whenever time is available, Mike likes to work out and exercise and makes a point to spend time with Stacy, who he says is very supportive of his work with children of all ages and student athletes.
Mike is excited about working with the team in Newfield. His approach to coaching involves mentoring, teaching the basics of the game and most particularly, encouraging the athletes to keep their grades up and be responsible, determined and on time.
“Mike is going to make a great coach, as he knows the game and cares about the athletes,” said David Barrett, a 1989 graduate of Newfield High School who still lives in Newfield and continues to be a big supporter of the school’s athletic teams. “I believe he will take the JV basketball program to its next level.”
Chris Bubble, a Newfield elementary physical education teacher and the coach for the varsity boys’ basketball team, likes how Mike interacts with kids.
“Newfield is fortunate to have him on board to share his basketball experience, but I also feel Mike will be a fine role model and will be of great help to us as we guide our student athletes into becoming good citizens,” Bubble said.
Recommended for you