A lifelong resident of Washington, Tommy Nolan served the University as a two-sport letterman from 1935-38 and a two sport coach in basketball and baseball.
Nolan grew up in northeast Washington and was a two-time all-Met in basketball for Eastern High in 1933 and 1934. Recruited to georgetown as part of a nine man recruiting class, Nolan's freshman team compiled a 13-1 record in 1934-35, but struggled to maintain a foothold in varsity play, with a combined three year mark of 23-30. Acknowledged as the team's playmaking guard, Nolan was not a particular scoring threat and averaged just two points a game.
After graduating Georgetown in 1938, Nolan found work in teaching--15 years in the DC public school system, ten of which was as head coach and athletic director at Anacostia HS. Beginning in 1953, he coached two Catholic league champions at Gonzaga over three seasons until a 1956 encounter at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington sent him back to the Hilltop.
Georgetown officials had grown tired of Buddy Jeannette, who after four years was just 49-49 at Georgetown, Jeannette was seen as not spending enough time with the team, having to commute from Baltimore to maintain a produce business because Georgetown would not pay him a full time wage. While attending a communion breakfast at the hotel, University president Edmund Bunn S.J. approached Nolan. "You've got to come up here and help us," Nolan recalled Bunn's request. "We need someone to coach basketball."
Nolan took a pay cut and served as Georgetown's basketball and baseball coach for four seasons. In his years as basketball coach, Nolan fared worse than Jeannette, with just 40 wins in 89 games. While Nolan's teams showed promise, the Hoyas were beset by academic suspensions imposed by the school among players struggling at midterms.
The Hoyas had their worst run under Nolan in 1958-59, with an 8-15 record.
"In 1959 I was hung in effigy," Nolan recalled in a HOYA interview. "Still, I'd do it over again if I had the chance."
Nolan made attempts to elevate Georgetown's lack of national recruiting. According to a 1976 HOYA retrospective, Nolan attempted to recruit Hall of Famer Jerry Lucas but was unsuccessful. A later attempt at recruiting John Thompson ran afoul of the College's de facto segregation policy, with Nolan only saying that "It would have been difficult for him here."
After a 11-12 season in 1960, Nolan was reassigned to baseball coaching only and took a full time position in the university's department of physical education. Nolan coached the baseball team for 23 seasons until retiring in 1978 with a career record of 141-265-1.
"I just can't give the service I used to," Nolan told the Washington Post in 1978. "I find I can't do it anymore. I run out of gas. I used to keep those players running, hit 400 flies to the outfield. [The] school pays me pretty good money, [but] I don't think they're getting their money's worth. I'm glad they let me stay this long."
At 65, Nolan told the Post he foresaw a short retirement. "I don't suppose I have that many years left. I'm 65. I'll travel a little bit with my wife, see some of the things we haven't had a chance to see. And I play golf."
Tommy Nolan, a member of the Georgetown University Athletic Hall of Fame, died in 1996 at the age of 83.