There are some individuals who simply have presence. There’s something about their appearance or their mannerisms, maybe even their speech. Nicky Bell has presence.
The Sleepy Hollow resident and co-owner (along with partner Brian Doyle) of J.P.
Doyle’s Restaurant & Public House in Sleepy Hollow is easy to remember, and one of those larger-than-life characters, especially on the soccer field.
We met up with Nicky Bell prior to varsity soccer practice at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry. He was appointed Head Coach this season and has come full circle from a player at Mercy to a graduate of the College and now their coach. The coaching road was not a straight path but rather an interesting series of twists and turns that only added to the flavor of his thirty seven years.
Born in Naven County Meath in the Republic of Ireland, he came to the United States at age nineteen with a Mercy College soccer scholarship. At that time in 1993 there were three other Irish players on the team and it helped him deal with a new country and the rigors of college academics. The adjustment, however, would lead Nicky Bell away from Mercy College after two seasons on the playing field. "The fellow I came over with transferred to another college and my two other Irish friends graduated," he said. Nicky was twenty one years old at the time he put his education on pause and entered the workforce.
Soccer, however, never really stopped being a key ingredient in his life and he took a coaching position at Stepinac High School which lasted four years. In 2002 his team shared the Catholic High School AA Championship Title. Nicky also continued to play the game as a member of the Shamrocks Soccer Club based in Queens, New York. In 2003 Neil Judge, the former Athletic Director at Mercy, asked Nicky to come back, both on the field and in the classroom. He completed his studies with a degree in Business and continued on the field as a player, then as an assistant coach. When Mercy’s Head Coach, Chris Gonzalez, left for a coaching position at Iona College this summer, Nicky Bell assumed the top spot. "I learned a lot from Chris and he did a really great job at Mercy," he said. With a new season in front of him in a very competitive East Coast Conference, Mercy compiled a 7-7-3 overall record and finished with a 4-4-1 record in their conference. The team made it to post-season play where they lost to the defending National Champions and 6th-ranked in the nation, Dowling College.
Looking ahead as all soccer coaches do, he is actively recruiting players for next season. Seven international players are being considered along with players that have been recommended to him from local leagues and Mercy alumnae. His assistant coaches, Andy Eaton, Dave Kilpatrick, Brian Walsh and Rob Ward are also active in seeking players that can bolster the team’s roster. As a Division II school, Mercy College can offer a range of scholarships as well to attract talented players. "My goal is simple. I want Mercy College to be a National Championship contender. I am very proud of our boys and the way they have come together as a team. We have a very strong sense of camaraderie," he said. That appreciation is also extended to the administrative staff at the College. Iris Cordero, the Dean of Student Affairs, along with Drew Brown, Ashlee Kelly and Bill Sullivan in the Athletic Department, have given Nicky Bell volumes of support and made his first year as head coach as seamless as possible. Support and teamwork on and off the field speak well to Nicky Bell’s success and the College he’s committed to.