News that Wright State athletic director Bob Grant invited new basketball coach Scott Nagy and two other applicants to meet with the players during the interview process drew surprised reactions from across the country.
But Grant said it’s a practice he’s employed since coming to WSU more than 20 years ago.
“We’ve had teams meet with candidates in every sport, and we’ve done it for years,” Grant said Monday morning shortly after officially announcing Nagy’s hiring.
“It backs up what I’ve always said, that we do things differently at Wright State,” Grant continued. “We’re not making widgets. We’ve got 300 18-to-22-year-olds we’re trying to mold and improve in a small amount of time to get them ready for life, so why not involve them in the process? Now it’s not a voting process. They don’t vote on who the next coach is going to be. It’s a real world process. Here is a new potential CEO for our company. Let’s have an hour where you can get to know who it is.”
Nagy, 49, replaces Billy Donlon, who was fired March 11 after going 109-93 in six seasons, including 22-13 this year with an appearance in the Horizon League championship game for the third time in four years.
But one of the reasons Grant cited for parting ways with Donlon was the inability to win any of those championship games and reach the NCAA Tournament.
Nagy comes to WSU from South Dakota State, where he went 410-240 in 21 seasons, including 26-8 this year when he led the Jackrabbits to the Summit League tournament championship and the program’s third NCAA Tournament berth in the last five seasons.
“He’s not only been where we want to go, he right now is where we want to go,” Grant said. “It’s not like we’re dusting off something he did eight years ago.”
Nagy led SDSU to a share of the Summit League regular-season title before winning the tournament and earning a No. 12 in the NCAA, where the Jackrabbits fell to No. 5 Maryland 79-74 in the first round.
“My family and I are extremely excited for the next chapter in our lives,” said Nagy, who will be formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday morning at the Nutter Center.
“It was clear to me at every step of the interview process that Wright State University has everything in place to have a successful men’s college basketball program. I’m so grateful for the opportunity that President Dr. David Hopkins and Athletic Director Bob Grant have given us.”
Nagy began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Illinois under coach Lou Henson and alongside Nagy’s father Dick, a longtime Illini assistant, and was part of the coaching staff that took Illinois to the Final Four in 1989.
After earning his master’s degree in physical education from Illinois in 1990, Nagy returned to SDSU as an assistant coach from 1990-93. He then spent two years as an assistant at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville before returning to SDSU as head coach at age 29.
Nagy won four North Central Conference championships and five NCC coach of the year awards in addition to guiding the Jackrabbits to the Division II Elite 8 in 1997 before leading the program’s transition to Division I in 2004.
At the time, he was second among active D2 coaches with a .781 winning percentage.
“Besides all the basketball accolades, everyone I talked to who had any knowledge of Scott Nagy says he’s a great coach but a better man and his student-athletes’ experience is second to none,” Grant said. “That’s ultra important to us and our culture and what we’re trying to do.
“You check every box statistically from a basketball standpoint, then you get to the really important stuff. What kind of man is he? What kind of role model is he for the student-athlete?” Grant continued. “We want all 300 student-athletes to have great experiences here. We’ve got them for a short period of time and very formative years.
“Scott’s reputation is just music to the ears of an administrator.”
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