Archdeacon: Wright State coach to refs about animated fan -- ‘Dad’s here. Just ignore him back there’

Wright State was playing an ugly game – taking ill-advised shots, making dumb fouls, turning the ball over 20 times – and Coach Nagy was beside himself:

He sat there with his head in his hands.

After an errant Raider pass flew out of bounds, he rose out of his seat in disgust, pirouetted and then plopped right back down again.

With seven minutes left in the first half, he yelled at the ref who had just whistled a suspect, second foul on Grant Benzinger: “Where’d that come from! A new call?”

Three minutes into the second half when Raiders big man Loudon Love picked up a third foul on a clumsy effort, he stomped his feet and groused: “Stop fouling!” And with that he lowered his shaking head back into his hands.

The exasperation from a rushed WSU shot that ended up an air ball caused him to toss his cap a couple of feet above his head

Finally, an Everett Winchester offensive foul down the stretch pulled him out of his seat again and this time, he trudged straight up the Nutter Center stairs. He watched a couple of minutes from the very top of the arena and then drifted over to a more vacant section of seats and tromped halfway back to the court before sitting down on the steps until the end of the game.

But before you start wondering just how in the world Coach Scott Nagy got his team back on track enough to stave off IUPUI, 60-52, Saturday evening, you should know he was not the guy going through all the tortured theatrics.

That was his 75-year-old dad.

Dick Nagy.

He too was a longtime college coach.

He spent 17 years on Lou Henson’s staff at Illinois and five years with Jimmy Collins at Illinois-Chicago (UIC). He also was the head coach at Barton Community College in Kansas and East Central Junior College in Missouri and an assistant at Hardin Simmons.

Now he’s an ardent follower of his son and the Raiders.

And Saturday he found himself dealing with a tough double team.

First, he sat helplessly in the front row of seats – directly behind the WSU bench – and tried to stomach the Raiders often-disjointed play.

“When you know the game like he knows the game it’s hard to just sit there and watch and not have any impact on it,” his son admitted with a shrug and a smile. “It’s the curse of knowing so much.”

But the most stifling part of the double team was linked to another kind of curse. He was trying his best to keep any salty language and the sour assessment to himself because his longtime preacher was sitting right next to him.

Dick lives in Lindenhurst Illinois, some 40 miles north of Chicago, near the Wisconsin state line. When he drives down for the WSU games, his travelling partner is Rev. Johnnie Jenkins, the pastor emeritus of Cornerstone Community Church in nearby Wadsworth and a guy he calls “a mentor.”

“He enjoys travelling with me and I enjoy travelling with him,” said Jenkins, who was a missionary in Panama for 20 years. “We have good talks about things of the Lord and obviously sports and basketball.

“Scripture talks about how iron sharpens iron so one man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

Dick admitted his pal kept him from being too pointed on Saturday:

“As bad as I am, I’m not as bad as I could be if he wasn’t here. I’m trying to keep the harsh stuff down. But the emotion of it is hard for me.”

Pastor Jenkins smiled at the effort: “He’s trying…but yes, he struggles.”

Anything but coaching

As his son was going through a standout career at Delta State University, Dick did all he could to dissuade him from following his footsteps.

He pushed his son to get a business management degree and forget about coaching.

“I prayed he wouldn’t go into coaching,” he said. “I knew all the pitfalls, all the pressure and how tough it can be. And you don’t want to see your children suffer like that.”

Dick had a different upbringing than his son. A product of a blue collar family in Syracuse, he was out of high school three years, working as a milkman and planning to get married when he got a call from Henson to play basketball at Hardin Simmons, a small Baptist school in Abilene, Texas.

After that he paid his dues as he came up the coaching ladder and, in the process, developed a hard-knocks approach at times.

“I was more of a glass half-empty guy,” he once told me. “I was pretty emotional. I’d kind of get after guys like Simon Legree.”

As for his son – who didn’t listen to his dad’s early entreaties, is in his 23rd season as a college head coach at South Dakota State and now Wright State and has a 440-257 overall record – they are quite different in some ways Dick said Saturday:

“He’s much kinder than I am. I’m not saying he’s not intense. He’s very intense. But he’s gathered. I’m ungathered. He’s more like his mom in personality.”

Standing outside the WSU dressing room after the IUPUI victory, Scott laughed and agreed with much of that assessment:

“I probably do deliver my criticism with a little more grace than he did. To be truthful, my dad couldn’t coach today. They’d fire him in a hurry for the stuff he says and did say and way he treated his players. He could be brutal. He had tough teams and tough kids, but times are different now.”

That’s not to say that Scott doesn’t channel the old man on a rare occasion.

Although he spent much of Saturday’s game crouched in front of the scorer’s table with an outwardly calm demeanor, the emotion did boil over in the final 45 seconds.

Wright State was hanging onto a five-point lead when Justin Mitchell stole the ball from the Jaguars. Nagy signaled for him to hold up so they could milk the clock, but the senior guard didn’t see the command.

He charged down the court and tried to split two defenders as he went for a layup. Instead, he was whistled for a charging foul and that got Nagy throwing his arms out in in disbelief as he stomped and spat out his displeasure.

But just as quickly the mood passed, the victory was secured and with a 10-5 record, the Raiders’ glass is more than half full.

‘They’ve got it going in the right direction’

Before last Thursday night’s game against UIC, Scott said he shared a light-hearted, but truthful thought with referee Lamont Simpson:

“It was an older officiating crew, so dad knows some of those guys because he was in this league. I said, ‘Hey Lamont, Dad’s here. Just ignore him back there. I don’t want you getting all bent out of shape because of what my dad is saying.”

Scott tells another story from his SDSU days and a trip to Illinois State, where Dick got seated right behind the Jackrabbits bench. Soon he was yelling at an official. As the guy turned around, Scott was quick to respond:

“I said, ‘Hey, that’s not my staff saying that…That’s just some fan!’”

Today, Dick is close to a regular at WSU games. He’s made seven of the Raiders nine home games and he catches them on the road when they play in Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Indiana.

While Scott’s glad his dad gets to share in his coaching career, he does add a caveat:

“I can’t have him sitting with the players’ parents. They might not like him yelling at their kid. But actually I think some of my guys make fun of him because they can hear him back there.”

After the game, while Dick spoke highly of the young talent WSU is adding – “they’ve got it going in the right direction here,” – he joking hoped he’d be around to see it all blossom:

“When you’re 75, a game like tonight probably took six months off my life. And Thursday’s game? That was another six months. So this trip alone cost me a whole year.”

Pastor Jenkins just smiled.

They’d talk on the ride home.

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