MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Even from an early age, Nalin Sood dreamed of becoming a basketball coach.
He fondly recalls an instance at age 8 when his mother dressed him in a suit for a wedding, which gave him an opportunity to pretend he was former Boston Celtics coach Tommy Heinsohn. As his parents were getting ready, the young Sood grabbed a chair, filled a mug with water and imitated the Hall of Fame coach while pretending to direct the Celtics from his living room.
“I always wanted to coach,” said Sood, whose father introduced him to basketball while listening to radio announcer Bob Blackburn call Seattle SuperSonics games in the early 1970s. “I just gravitated toward (the game) and loved it. That was about 43 years ago, and I’ve never really stopped.”
After playing basketball for Mountlake Terrace High School and graduating in 1987, Sood has spent 31 seasons coaching boys hoops at his alma mater, including the past 18 as head coach.
Sood owns a 277-159 head-coaching record (63.5 winning percentage) and has guided the Hawks to 11 state appearances, including a third-place trophy in 2005 and fourth place in 2013.
He also heads a pair of prep basketball organizations, serving as executive director of the Washington Interscholastic Basketball Coaches Association and president of the National High School Basketball Coaches Association.
For his coaching accomplishments and contributions to the game, Sood will be one of four coaches inducted into the WIBCA Hall of Fame during the association’s annual banquet July 24 at Nile Country Club in Mountlake Terrace.
“It’s a really big honor, and it’s even more humbling than one can imagine,” Sood said. “When I got the news, it was overwhelming and humbling.”
Sood will join longtime mentor Roger Ottmar as the second Mountlake Terrace coach to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Sood played for Ottmar, and then coached under him as an assistant for 13 seasons before taking over as head coach in 2000.
“If I had to point this honor to one person, it’s Roger Ottmar,” Sood said. “There’s no doubt about it. … I followed Roger’s blueprint, and to this day there’s (his) fingerprints all over our basketball program.”
Sood’s first coaching experience came during his senior year of high school, when Ottmar offered him the opportunity to coach Mountlake Terrace’s varsity team during spring league.
“He was our inspirational award winner his senior year and the team captain, so I knew that he had great leadership ability,” Ottmar said. “We needed a spring league coach, and he was just the perfect (fit). He was ready, willing and able to take off. And then it just kind of progressed from there.”
Sood joined the program as an assistant coach that fall and began coaching the junior-varsity team two years later at age 20. He’s been coaching basketball at the school ever since.
“There’s just something special about coaching at Mountlake Terrace High School,” said Sood, who also has taught business technology at the school for the past 22 years. “There’s something special about that place. I think it’s a lot of the people (and) student-athletes you get to work with.”
Sood has continued a tradition of coaching longevity at Mountlake Terrace, joining Ottmar and Merle Blevins as the only three head coaches in the program’s 58-year history.
Sood’s loyalty to Mountlake Terrace basketball dates all the way back to his childhood. After the Hawks won the 1977 state title under Blevins, Sood’s parents brought home a team photograph from the celebration dinner.
“I taped it up to the wall in my bedroom,” he said. “I used to see that picture every day and I thought, ‘Someday I hope to have a little bit of an impact on Mountlake Terrace High School basketball.’”
Sood certainly fulfilled his dream — and then some.
“The basketball program has always been real solid, and he’s continued to probably make it even more solid than what it was,” Ottmar said. “It’s always been a basketball school, (but) he’s moved it onward and upward.”
Ottmar said one of Sood’s greatest coaching attributes is his detailed preparation.
“He’s the most hard-working, dedicated coach that I’ve ever been around,” Ottmar said. “He’s so thorough with everything he does. His scouting (and) preparation is just way over the top, beyond what I ever did. And he’s able to impart it to the kids. Every detail he takes care of. He doesn’t leave anything unturned.
“He can go home at 11 o’clock on game nights and sit there and watch more video. Most coaches would be dead to the world, and he’s still viewing more film.”
Sood first learned how to scout opponents in ninth grade, when he joined assistant coach Greg Wirtz on a scouting assignment. That ultimately helped spark a passion for meticulous game preparation, which was evident to former Sehome coach Pat Fitterer even back when Sood was an assistant.
“He was probably the best scout in the league, because he’s so detail-oriented,” said Fitterer, who owns the second-most wins in state history. “He pretty much knew every set we ran at Sehome and everything we were going to do.”
Sood’s attention to detail also is evident in his teams’ emphasis on defense. Each of the past eight seasons, the Hawks have allowed less than 53 points per game.
“That’s something that goes back to coach Ottmar in the 1980s and has been a program philosophy for a long time,” Sood said. “We coach it hard and teach it hard, and our kids have bought into it. They’re the ones that go out and execute it. They deserve all the credit.”
Sood said his tireless work ethic stems from strong bonds with his players and coaches.
“It’s all about the relationships,” he said. “Any job, any profession, any walk of life you have — it’s about the relationships you make. Those are what make it enjoyable. … And if those are good, that’s going to motivate you to work your tail off.
“The strategy, the scouting, the practice planning, the game preparation, the individual workouts — that’s built off the relationships and wanting to provide everything you can for your kids.”
Sood has taken a similar approach to his heavy involvement in a handful of prep sports organizations.
He served as WIBCA’s president for 11 years and is in his second year as the association’s executive director. He’s also in his second year as president of the NHSBCA. He’s been president of the Edmonds School District Coaches Association for 14 years. He just finished his first year on a national sports medicine advisory committee for high school sports. He also was a past president of the Washington State Coaches Association.
“Everything he’s touched, he’s made bigger and better,” said Fitterer, a longtime WIBCA executive board member. “WIBCA is so much stronger and better-organized because of his leadership. … He just does such a good job that everybody wants him involved somehow. And because of his good organization, he can pull it all off.
“When you talk about someone who puts service above self, he’s the perfect example. He’s put WIBCA ahead of himself, he’s put his team ahead of himself. … Because of his work, he’s improved basketball in the state of Washington for every single player and every single coach.”