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Q&A: Nicole Musselman Turned Family History Into Sneakers

The daughter of the renowned NCAA coach wants to put his record on your feet.
By  | |Photography by Marc Montoya
Nicole Musselman
Carry the Load: Nicole and son Henry, a junior at Highland Park High, are partners in the 33.9 sneaker line. Nicole’s father, Bill, coached in the NCAA and NBA. Brother Eric coached in the NBA and is now head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks. Marc Montoya

How fast will these sneakers make me run? You will run extraordinarily fast in these sneakers. Our tagline is “We believe in the long shot.” You could possibly run the fastest mile you’ve ever run in your life. 

The 33.9 name of the shoe is a reference to your dad’s NCAA record for limiting opponents to that average score for a season. So how did Bill feel about punctuation? Because the heel of the shoe says “nations #1 defense,” without the apostrophe. We have all laughed so hard about this, but that was the actual logo at the time, in 1969, and so we wanted to keep it exactly the same. We went old school. They had these patches, and we took everything from the original artwork that he used in 1969. There’s a playbook for life in the shoe box, and it comes from a book that he wrote. Everything is meticulously done to reflect his thinking.

You’re rolling out different colors as we approach March Madness. What’s on tap? We really haven’t done an official launch yet, but we have three colors. So we have the black right now. And then we have a blue color and a pink color, and we also are going to have an official website this month. 

Does the KOCH House have a drop-off or something where the Highland Park ladies can donate their Golden Goose sneakers once they’ve bought a pair of 33.9s?[laughs] I’m getting it put in as we speak. I’m telling them they need to put one in there.

Your fashion house is spelled K-O-C-H, but everyone mispronounces it, usually with one of two vulgar words. I know it’s your middle name, but why did you think that was a good idea when you started out? [laughs] You’re so right. I mean, there’s just so many ways to mispronounce it. But I thought, Let’s give them a name that they have to work hard at. We encourage learning from failure. 

Your dad and your brother are the first father-son NBA head coaches. So what are the chances that you can solidify the Musselman record and make it the first father-son-daughter thing? Does that mean I have to be an NBA basketball coach? [laughs] I believe in the long shot. I think the NBA needs me badly.

You have to give up either Starburst candy or iced tea. Which do you pick? How did you know these were my Achilles’ heel? Oh, my gosh. Wait, that’s really, really hard. But I would give up the Starburst. I would just replace it with Smarties. 

That’s perfect for a coach. You always have to know who’s on the bench if somebody gets hurt. So how much do you hate Sonny Dykes? Who? Say it again. What am I missing? Am I having a blonde moment? 

You’re an SMU grad! Your head football coach just decamped for TCU. Listen, I know you’re all about positivity. But right now you have to carve out a little piece of your heart and set it aside for a dark hatred of TCU and Sonny Dykes. OK, I can do that!

Henry, as your mom’s business partner on this sneaker deal, how hard is it to focus the hate part of her sports heart? My mom’s got a whole lot of love in her heart. I don’t think she hates anyone. But do not watch an Arkansas basketball game with her because she’ll scare you with her passion and competitiveness. 


Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…

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