By Scott Halasz
FAIRBORN — Wright State found the right coach.
And for Scott Nagy, it was the right time to go to Wright State.
Nagy, 49, was formally introduced as the Raiders new men’s basketball coach Tuesday, replacing the fired Billy Donlon. Nagy spent the last 21 seasons at South Dakota State University — which moved from Division II to Division I in 2004 — and led the Jackrabbits to the NCAA tournament in three of the last five seasons.
“It would take a very special place to pull me away from where I’ve lived so long, where our family’s lived,” Nagy said. “It would have to be a place that shared my values, that had a culture of family and had an opportunity to win. That’s obviously very important to me. Without question, that place was Wright State. Every step of the way in terms of the phone interview, the interview on campus, everything that happened, I knew that this was the right place for me.”
It was also a perfect fit for the Raiders, who chose Nagy from an original pool of nearly 200 coaches. The 49-year-old was wire-to-wire at the top of Athletic Director Bob Grant’s list.
“Rarely does the person at the top of your list then, end up at the top of the list at the end,” Grant said. “Our list of 60 we developed, Scott’s at the top of that list. We do a little bit of digging into Scott, Scott stays at the top of the list. We phone interview Scott, guess who’s still at the top of the list? Scott. We bring Scott Nagy on campus last week. Run him through the gauntlet … guess who’s still at the top of the list? Scott Nagy. The student-athlete experience with his kids at South Dakota State … just cinched the deal that he was a perfect fit for our culture.”
With him, Nagy brings a winning culture that he cultivated while working as a grad assistant for legendary Coach Lou Henson at the University of Illinois from 1988-90. The Illini went to the 1989 Final Four. Nagy amassed a record of 410-240 at SDSU and in addition to the trifecta of NCAA berths, boasts appearances in the National Invitational Tournament and College Basketball Invitational tournament — all in the last five years.
“From a statistical standpoint, he’s been where I want our program to go,” Grant said. “He’s not just been there. He’s there right now. Were not dusting off some resume that happened 8 to 10 years ago. This is the last five years. His resume is crazy.”
Nagy knows the pressure will be on him to replicate that success in Fairborn from Day One, especially since a lack of post-season appearances was among the reasons the popular Donlon was fired. Nagy is ready to tackle that expectation right away.
“I’m not overly interested in talking about a rebuilding year,” he said. “We want to be able to take the young men that are here now (and) establish a good culture, which I think is already here. They won 22 games last year they know how to win. This isn’t one of those things where you want to say well, in two or three years we’ll be pretty good. The expectations would be no, let’s do this thing next year. We’ve obviously proven we know how to get to the NCAA Tournament.”
Nagy is expected to sign a multi-year contract in the near future, Grant said.