Herbert Niiler

Biographical information

Full nameHerbert•Niiler
Used nameHerbert•Niiler
Born27 April 1905 in Tallinn, Harjumaa (EST)
Died13 April 1982 in Zelienople, Pennsylvania (USA)
NOC Estonia


Herbert Niiler coached the Estonian basketball team at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He graduated from Tallinn 1st Real School in 1923 and then did graduate studies in physical education at Springfield University in 1928. He also studied at the University of Tallinn in economics.

Niiler played basketball with the Genève YMCA team in Switzerland, Italy, and France. In 1929 he was named coach of the Estonian national team and led them at the Olympics and the 1937 and 1939 European Championships. He coached various sports, leading Tartu YMCA to national titles in basketball (1934, 1936-37), volleyball (1930, 1932, 1934), and hockey (1936). During this time he also worked at the J. Puhk & Sons department store in Tallinn and served as an ESK sports teacher.

Niiler founded the Tartu Boys ‘Sports Association in 1927, was a delegate to the YMCA World Physical Education Congress in Berlin in 1930, and was a member of the board of the Estonian Handball Association (1924) and the Christian Students’ Union. He left Estonia in 1944, spending time in Germany at a refugee camp from 1945-49, but eventually made it to the United States where he lived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and organized basketball camps for the YMCA. Niiler received the 5th Class Order of the Estonian Red Cross in 1939 and in 2020, was elected to the Estonian Basketball Hall of Fame.

Coaching results

Games Sport (Discipline) / Event NOC / Team Pos Medal As
1936 Summer Olympics Basketball (Basketball) EST Herbert Niiler
Basketball, Men (Olympic) Estonia =9