UNI Is One Of Only Three Schools That Have Done This…What?
"Panther Nation" already knows that UNI athletics consistently puts out a terrific product year-in and year-out. That fact, has put them in some elite sports company.
UNI was recently featured on the nationally-syndicated sports talk program The Dan Patrick Show during the host's "Stat of the Day" segment: Name the only three universities that have produced BOTH an NBA Finals-winning head coach AND a Super Bowl-winning quarterback. Before you scroll down for the answers, take a guess. Can you name the former UNI athletes?
The first part of the question should be relatively easy to figure out, considering he's the only UNI alumnus who's in a professional sports Hall of Fame. ANSWER: Kurt Warner.
Any UNI fan would know Warner's feel-good story. After playing at Cedar Rapids Regis in high school, he was third on the QB depth chart until finally getting a chance to start in his senior season. He gets released by the Green Bay Packers, spends time stocking shelves at a Cedar Falls Hy-Vee and bounces around on a few teams, before eventually finding his home with the then-St. Louis Rams. Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in 1999 while helped to create the "Greatest Show On Turf". He's now a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and a well-respected TV sports commentator.
FUN FACT: Warner was born in Burlington, Iowa.
So, who's the NBA Finals-winning coach who played at UNI? ANSWER: Nick Nurse.
The Carroll, Iowa, native played in 111 games for the Panthers from 1985 to 1989. He still owns the school's career record for three-point field goal percentage (.468). Following his playing career, Nurse spent time as an assistant coach and head coach at various levels of basketball before joining Dwane Casey's staff as an assistant coach with the NBA's Toronto Raptors in 2013. After his promotion to head coach in 2018 (replacing Casey), Nurse guided the franchise to its first NBA title in 2019.
FUN FACT: Nurse is the only head coach to win a championship in both the NBA and NBA G League (formerly D-League).
Indeed, UNI is in rarefied air with some of sports' best athletes and coaches. Especially, since they're considered a mid-major program.
Now that the UNI portion of the equation is solved, what other schools produced an NBA Finals-winning head coach AND a Super Bowl-winning quarterback?
ANSWER #1: UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
NFL Quarterback - Tom Brady: Who else could it be? In the two seasons he started at Michigan, Brady posted a 20-5 record that included wins at the 1999 Citrus Bowl and 2000 Orange Bowl. Ironically, the six-time Super Bowl champion was seventh on the Wolverines' depth chart after enrolling at Michigan in 1995. He was drafted 199th overall by the New England Patriots in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Today, Brady is considered the biggest "steal" in the history of the draft due to his late selection. Brady spent the first 20 seasons of his pro career with the Patriots, playing in a record nine Super Bowls overall. He recently signed a two-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
FUN FACT: Brady's first Super Bowl win in 2001 came against the Kurt Warner-led St. Louis Rams.
NBA Coach - Rudy Tomjanovich: Tomjanovich wore the Wolverines' maize and blue colors from 1967 to 1970. His professional career was from 1970 and 1981, spent entirely with the San Diego / Houston Rockets franchise. Tomjanovich built his Hall of Fame coaching resume while guiding the Rockets from 1992 to 2003. He directed Houston to consecutive NBA championships in 1994 and 1995. Tomjanovich also coached the Los Angeles Lakers during part of the 2004-05 NBA season and was enshrined at the Naismith Hall of Fame on April 4, 2020.
ANSWER #2: UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA:
NFL Quarterback - Nick Foles: Foles attended Michigan State for one year, before transferring to Arizona in 2008. After being selected 88th overall by the Philadelphia Eagles in the third-round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he played for two other teams (St. Louis Rams-2015, Kansas City Chiefs-2016) before returning to Philadelphia to back-up starting signal-caller Carson Wentz in 2017. After Wentz suffered a season-ending injury in a week 14 game, Foles became the starter. He guided the Eagles to their first Super Bowl title, a 41-33 win over Tom Brady's New England Patriots. Foles was named the game's Most Valuable Player. The journeyman left the Eagles for Jacksonville in 2019. The Jaguars traded Foles to the Chicago Bears on March 31, 2020.
FUN FACT: Foles was named Arizona's starting quarterback for the fourth game of his sophomore season Previous starter Matt Scott was benched after struggling in a week three game against Iowa.
NBA Coach - Steve Kerr: Kerr played basketball for the Wildcats from 1983 to 1988, helping them reach the NCAA Final Four his last season. The Golden State Warriors have played in the NBA Finals every season since naming Kerr head coach on May 14, 2014. They won the championship in 2015, 2017 and 2018.
FUN FACT: Kerr held the NBA record for highest three-point percentage in a season at 52.4% until 2010, when the mark was broken by Pella, Iowa, native Kyle Korver.