When the new Wright State men’s coaching staff arrived on campus in April shortly after Scott Nagy was hired, it was women’s assistant Katrina Merriweather who took the lead in showing the group around.
“It started as a conversation, and then I just said, ‘Hey, let me take you,’” Merriweather recalled. “So I took them the route that we take our recruits and pointed out what we show them on their tours and what we highlight on campus.”
A short time later, after Merriweather replaced Mike Bradbury at the helm of the women’s prorgram, the men’s staff returned the favor by giving her first choice of practice time at Setzer Pavilion, the practice facility the teams share.
And the relationship between the programs has continued to grow as both head coaches navigate their first season at the helm of their respective programs.
“We hear stories all the time about other places where student athletes don’t get along and teams don’t along and there’s petty jealousies and it’s a zero-sum game, and that just doesn’t happen here,” WSU athletic director Bob Grant said. “I see great camaraderie between them, and I see great camaraderie between the student-athletes.”
When the teams aren’t playing a doubleheader, as they will Saturday afternoon when they both face Northern Kentucky, with the women at 4:30 and men at 7, the men’s players come out to cheer for the women and vice versa.
“I’ve been to every single one of their games,” junior Chelsea Welch said. “We’re always there, cheering them on. We get really into it with the other fans. It’s definitely more fan mode, but having that basketball background, we’re also analyzing it or trying to pick things up that they do that we can work on in our games.”
Nagy knows the value of a symbiotic relationship between programs who share a practice facility after spending the previous 16 seasons working alongside the same women’s coach at South Dakota State in Aaron Johnson, who began his coaching career as Nagy’s graduate assistant.
“I think the players interact a lot more because as coaches we’re so deeply involved with our season, so we don’t run into each as much as you would think being in the same building,” he said. “But it’s certainly very friendly when we do see them. We keep track of how they’re doing. We know they’ve only lost one game and that they’re playing really well.”
That success is something the programs share in addition to a practice facility.
The women are 17-5 overall and 9-1 in the Horizon League, while the men stand 15-8, 6-4. And if both teams keep it going, they could end up setting the school record for most combined wins, which was 47 in 2014 when the men went 21-15 and the women finished 26-9.
“It definitely makes it fun,” Merriweather said. “I think it says a lot about them, how a team responds to a first-year coach like that. I was in that situation as an assistant when Lisa (Ryckbosch) took over at UIC.
“It was my first coaching job, and those kids were horrendous because they were so upset that their coach had gotten fired,” she added. “They just weren’t very receptive to us being there. So I think it says a lot about what Scott and his staff have done this year.”
Even before the games began, the programs were working together, sharing a Habitat for Humanity community service project last spring. And another is planned after the season ends, which will only increase the bonds between the players.
“They’re all really great people, genuine, funny men,” Welch said. “A lot of us share the same majors, so we have a lot of the same classes and get close through that, too.”
Welch said there have been a lot of times when she and her teammates will head to the pavilion during off hours to get in some extra shooting, only to find a bunch of the men’s players already there. Instead of being shooed away, the men invite them in to share the baskets.
“Sometimes you hear these horror stories, and I was thinking, ‘This is a new coach. I don’t know how this is going to work,’” Merriweather said. “But Scott and his staff have been great. And the kids get along. The chemistry is amazing, and that makes all the intangibles not an issue. So it’s been awesome.”