Mesa dedicates court to Wayne Nelson

Saunders Fieldhouse was Nelson’s brainchild

President Tim Foster, front left,  dedicates the court at Brownson Arena to longtime coach Wayne Nelson, who couldn’t attend as his wife Marie and son Nate, top left, accept the honor along with many of the coaches team

Wayne Nelson did a little bit of everything back in the day at Mesa College.

The former athletic director and basketball coach was instrumental in getting the college to build a place the Mavericks could call home.

That place, Saunders Fieldhouse, is undergoing an extensive renovation, and next season the Mavs’ volleyball and basketball teams will call Wayne Nelson Court home.

Thursday night before the Mavs’ men’s team tipped off against Western New Mexico University, Mesa State President Tim Foster announced the dedication of the court in Brownson Arena.

Nelson couldn’t be at the dedication because he’s in a Salt Lake City hospital, but his wife, Marie, and son, Nate, accepted a plaque commemorating the event. Also in attendance were several members of Nelson’s 1959 team, which was having a reunion at the game.

Nelson, though, was able to watch the ceremony on the Internet and spoke to the crowd.

“It’s a real thrill to see all you good people and the guys from the team,” Nelson said via the feed. He thanked Foster for his role in the ceremony and his players during his 17-year coaching career.

Nelson, the athletic director at Mesa for 26 years, took over as basketball coach in 1955. He had a 260-193 coaching record, winning three conference championships and two regional titles. His teams went to the national tournament twice, including the group of players at the game.

As Mesa’s athletic director, Nelson oversaw the addition of women’s athletics and convinced school officials that the athletic department needed a new athletic and physical education complex, which became Saunders Fieldhouse.

In 1999, the gymnasium was named Brownson Arena in honor of Bud and Phyllis Brownson, longtime supporters of the college and the founders of the Brownson Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Nelson, who grew up in Grantsville, Utah, has long been a fixture at Mesa State games and Foster wished him a speedy recovery.

When the athletic renovations are complete this spring, Wayne Nelson Court will be unveiled.

Nelson made sure to share his honor with his wife, “who helped me survive all that fun and entertainment we had,” he said.

“And to the Mesa Mavericks … go! Beat that team tonight.”


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