Nelson, fresh off a six-year stint with Bethel and looking forward to some free time, suddenly had his retirement plans rerouted.

"Everyone kind of thought at the time that it was a set deal, me going to Immaculate the way I did, but it wasn't," said Nelson. "I'd had enough of coaching for the moment after being with Bethel, but this was too good an opportunity to pass up."

Ten years later, that opportunity has come to a close. Nelson - who recorded 170 wins at Immaculate, one SWC championship and two trips to the state Class S title game - announced over the weekend he is, indeed, done with the coaching. The Mustangs went 170-71 under Nelson, a resident of Bethel, and were one of the few SWC teams during his tenure to quality for both the conference and state tournament in all 10 seasons.

Though no replacement has been named, the job will likely go to either one of two veteran assistants, junior varsity coach Nelson Mingachos or Dean White. Mingachos, after serving as an assistant girls soccer coach at Immaculate for a number of years, led the Mustangs to the state Class S championship last fall in his first head coaching venture.

"I mentioned that fact about girls soccer when making some recommendations," said Nelson, who began his own scholastic coaching career as a JV coach under Murphy at Immaculate in the early 1980s.

As a proprietor in a family roofing business that bears his name, Nelson will hardly have free time on his hands. But the break from coaching was long in coming. Before he coached at Bethel for six seasons, he was an Immaculate JV coach for eight years. Before that, he coached the St. Mary of Bethel parochial school team.

His two sons, Immaculate senior guard Jon and Central Connecticut State junior Bobby, practically learned to walk at their father's Bethel practices. Debbie Nelson, the coach's wife and a former field hockey player at Central Connecticut, has barely known a year of marriage away from some kind of basketball coaching by her husband.

"I've been ready for this for the last year-and-a-half or so," Bob Nelson said. "You sense when it's time to move on. Then it just becomes a question of when. I found myself in spots where I should have been out scouting and wasn't. I didn't have quite the same energy. You never want to be in a situation where you're not giving it your all."

In addition to averaging 17 wins per season at Immaculate and turning out a stream of standout players, Nelson's teams were perhaps best known for their entertaining style of fast-break basketball.

The Mustangs could play the game at any speed - even at a crawl - that circumstances dictated, but the European wide-lane break was the Nelson coaching signature. Like with the 1-3-1 zone of Weston coach Carl Charles, the more success that Immaculate enjoyed, the more you saw other team's mimicking the Mustang break.

"No one looked forward to playing a Bob Nelson-coached team," said Kolbe coach John Pfohl, whose teams won seven of the 10 SWC titles during Nelson's tenure.

"I'd sometimes scout Immaculate early in the year or see them play in state tourney against a team that was not prepared for what they do, and I can only say that I laughed out loud as I watch opposing coaches get so mad as (Immaculate) got lay-ups and corner jump shots at will off the break.

"We all knew it was coming and we still had problems stopping it. Imagine not knowing what they were going to do?

"Bob has done an outstanding job every year; his teams were always competitive and always played us as tough as anyone in SWC," Pfohl added.

"He's a coach that I enjoy being around off the court and have learned from on the court. He gets it.

He was very competitive on the floor, but as soon as the game was over, he'd go back to the calm person he is normally. He cares about kids and was willing to sacrifice a win to teach players important life lessons. Most coaches will talk about that but most don't ever follow through. Bob did. I will miss him a lot. Playing Immaculate will not be quite the same without him on the other sideline."

Nelson's former players and coaches have wound up in all kinds of productive endeavors, starting with Mingachos, whom he coached as a JV player at Immaculate.

His best player at Bethel, 6-foot-6 Greg Sutton, is now a goalkeeper with the Canadian national soccer team. Doug Riepe, one of Immaculate's all-time leading scorers, played four years of baseball at Wake Forest. Sean Lomas, Nelson's all-time 3-point king, started travel-team programs for Green Chimneys in Brewster, N.Y., which treats emotionally-troubled children.

The Immaculate coaching tree has been extended as well during Nelson's two separate stints at Immaculate. His former assistant, Jim Luchsinger, is now the New Milford head coach. Former Immaculate guard Anthony Simone was a volunteer assistant at the College of Charleston and is now preparing for a coaching career at Western Connecticut State. Mike Murphy helps coach with his brother, Matt, at Carmel High in New York.

Former point guard Brian Cosio would make an excellent coach, said Nelson, if he wasn't so busy being a scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

Though Nelson will probably be best remembered for his 10 years of coaching at Immaculate, it was at first hard to break the hometown habits of his son Jon, who was raised as a Bethel fan as he witnessed his father coach his first high school team.

"I remember the first time we played Bethel after I'd gone back to Immaculate," Bob Nelson said.

"Jon, who was seven at the time, had grown up following Greg Sutton and Bob Bartholomew and Jay Schade and Jimmy Luchsinger�so where does he sit for that first game when we played Bethel? I'm at our bench and I look over the Bethel side and there's Jon, sitting right behind their guys!"

Of Nelson's 10 seasons at Immaculate, four stand out most prominently. In 1996-97, Immaculate finished 21-6, won the SWC and advanced to state Class S final, only to run into a Marianapolis Prep team that was loaded with lightning-quick international players.

In 2000 and 2001, Immaculate went a combined 40-11 over two seasons. In 1999-2000, the Mustangs upset Kolbe in the Class M quarterfinals after earlier losing to the Cougars twice, then lost in overtime in the state semis to Trinity Catholic. In 2000-01, Immaculate compiled a 20-6 record, but fell to Kolbe and 7-foot Brazilian center Fernando Bonfim in the SWC final.

Though the Immaculate team of 2002-03 (19-6) lost a controversial SWC quarterfinal round game to Stratford, it went on play in the state Class S title game in New Britain and led by as many as nine points before falling to Hyde of New Haven, 66-64.

Immaculate finished at 12-10 this past season.

"It was a lot of fun; the kids have been great and so have the opposing coaches," said Nelson.

"We had a lot of great battles with John (Pfohl) and it was always fun coaching against guys like Paul Dudzinski (Stratford) and Pat Yerina (Bunnell) and Bob Menegay when he was at Barlow, and preparing for Carl's 1-3-1. I may come back some place at some point in time, but as of now, I've resigned. Deb and I are ready to move to another part of our lives."