Nilsson has already led the Pepperdine women’s tennis program to record-setting feats in his first two seasons. Since taking over in 2015, Nilsson has amassed a 42-10 overall record at Pepperdine for a sterling .808 winning percentage.
In the most recent 2016 campaign, Nilsson coached the Waves to the NCAA Championships quarterfinal round, an accomplishment achieved only five times in program history. The NCAA berth was the 33rd in program history. The Waves finished #9 in the final Oracle/ITA rankings and went 24-3 overall with West Coast Conference Championship and regular-season crowns.
Nilsson spent seven seasons as the head men’s coach at Mississippi State after a five-year stint as an assistant coach with the Waves’ men’s squad. During his first stop in Malibu, Nilsson helped lead the Pepperdine men to the 2006 NCAA championship.
Nilsson was voted the WCC Coach of the Year by his peers in his first season with the women’s team in 2015 and again in 2016. His recruiting efforts yielded standout Luisa Stefani, who went on to earn ITA National Rookie of the Year acclaim as well as ITA Southwest Region Rookie of the Year and Player to Watch, WCC Freshman and Player of the Year and first team singles and doubles honors. The freshman was also named an ITA Singles All-American after reaching the NCAA Singles Championships semifinals in 2016. She was the first Wave to do so since the 1989 season.
In 2015, he recruited Laura Gulbe, who went on to earn West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year status. With a roster comprised of just seven student-athletes, the Waves won both the conference’s regular-season and tournament championships, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament. Pepperdine conclude the season with an 18-7 record and a final ranking of #22.
After leaving Pepperdine in 2007, Nilsson spent seven seasons coaching the men’s squad at his alma mater, Mississippi State. There he compiled a record of 95-76 while going 36-42 in the tough Southeastern Conference. He led the Bulldogs to back-to-back SEC West titles in 2011 and 2012 and brought MSU to four-straight NCAA Tournaments from 2011-14.
Nilsson took over for Escudero, who has been at the helm for 37 seasons beginning in 1977-78. He stepped down at the end of the 2013-14 campaign. When Nilsson took over, he inherited a team that had made 27 consecutive NCAA Tournaments and captured the West Coast Conference championship for the 24th time in 2014 while earning a final national ITA ranking of #24.
In his six seasons in Starkville, Miss., Nilsson’s squads produced four ITA All-Americans and 17 All-SEC selections.
His eye for recruiting and developing young talent is evident as a Mississippi State player garnered SEC Freshman of the Year honors in three-of-four seasons. In 2013, Romain Bogaerts not only took the conference’s top rookie award, he was also honored as the ITA National Freshman of the Year.
Nilsson first brought the Bulldogs to the NCAA Championship in 2011, their first appearance since 2005, and MSU advanced to the second round. After reaching the second round again in 2012, Nilsson’s young 2013 team eclipsed expectations and advanced to the NCAA Championship round of 16 for the first time since 2001. Mississippi State made their fourth-consecutive appearance at the tournament in 2014 and reached the second round.
Nilsson had racked up the honors for himself as well throughout his time at MSU, including an SEC Coach of the Year honor in 2011 and two ITA Southern Region Coach of the Year honors in 2011 and 2013.
In the classroom, Nilsson’s teams have been just as dominant. MSU has been named an ITA All-Academic team for the past five seasons, producing 40 Academic All-SEC selections and 29 ITA Scholar-Athlete selections. Nilsson has also had two players named Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
Nilsson was an assistant coach for the Pepperdine men’s tennis team from 2003-07 under head coach Adam Steinberg, where the Waves went 119-38 in those five seasons.
Easily highlighting his resume while in Malibu was the 2006 campaign when Pepperdine claimed its first-ever national championship. Nilsson was very involved in Pepperdine's recruiting efforts leading up to that season, which saw the Waves post a 36-2 record and hand Georgia its only loss of the season in the NCAA title match at Palo Alto, Calif.
Leading up to that crowning season, Pepperdine improved from #27 in the country in 2004 to #8 nationally in 2005, a year in which Nilsson was named the ITA’s West Region Assistant Coach of the Year. The Waves advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals that campaign, ending at 24-3.
Nilsson played collegiately at Mississippi State from 1992-94 and helped the Bulldogs earn three consecutive top-10 finishes in the rankings. MSU reached the round of 16 at the NCAA Championship in 1992 and 1993 before reaching the semifinals in 1994.
Serving as team captain during his senior year, Nilsson is ranked #6 on the Bulldogs' all-time career victory list in both singles and doubles.
Nilsson was a student assistant coach at Mississippi State during the 1994-95 season before working as a tennis professional at the Capital City Country Club and St. Marlo Country Club. From 1998-2000, he was the Director of Tennis at Appalachee Farms.
A native of Lund, Sweden, Nilsson was a high school exchange student at Jackson (Miss.) Academy and was the 1990 Mississippi Academy singles champion. He earned a degree in Business and Sports Administration from Mississipi State in 2008. He is married to the former Beth Vennerstrom.