Scott Nagy is entering his 25th year as a college head coach, including four at Wright State. And while there are no downsides to having gone through more than 700 games over a quarter century — well, at least none that outsiders would notice — Nagy knows he’s changed.
The 53-year-old Illinois native had so much excitement when he started at South Dakota State that he’d feel like running to practice. But the rigors of the business — and occasional soul-crushing defeats — have taken their toll. And he’d like to recapture some of that zeal he had as a rookie coach.
“I know a lot more now. I’m so much more experienced. Unfortunately, some of that experience dampens the enthusiasm,” he said. “Back then, I had more fun. I wish sometimes I was more like that. I’d be more enjoyable to be around, particularly with my staff and players.”
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Nagy has had sustained success and seems to be getting better with age. He’s been named the Horizon League coach of the year the last two seasons and has won four regular-season conference titles and four league tourney crowns in the last eight years.
But the losses have begun to stick with him like chewing gum on a shoe.
“When your program is good and it’s expected to win, that’s when that starts to happen,” he said. “Even when you win, you start getting nit picky — we could’ve done better, we could’ve won by more. Sometimes you win and it’s not even enjoyable. And then when you lose, it’s miserable.
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“But there’s some good in that. I’ve always said a loss reminds you just how good winning is.”
The Raiders, who start practice Thursday, are expected to do plenty of winning this season. They return their top three scorers in center Loudon Love, wing Bill Wampler and point guard Cole Gentry, and they have of a slew of complementary players.
The 6-foot-9 Love, a fourth-year junior who was a first-team all-league pick last season, has shed about 30 pounds after playing at as much as 280 and is more nimble now.
“We’re hoping to keep him between 250 and 260 because we’d like to play faster. He can get up and down the court that way. He could play less minutes but be more effective,” Nagy said.
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The Raiders, who open against Central State on Nov. 5, will also be bolstered by the return of forward Grant Basile and wing Jaylon Hall — as long as they can keep them healthy.
The 6-8 Basile, who missed last season with an ankle injury, has gone through a bout with mononucleosis and then cracked a rib after catching an inadvertent elbow from Love. But he’s been cleared again and could provide much-needed frontcourt depth.
Hall averaged 9.1 points as a freshman in 2017-18 (tied for fifth on the team) and then missed all but one game last season because of a shoulder injury.
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He’s been sidelined for fall workouts with a sprained ankle and struggled even before that to get into the flow during the offseason tour of Italy.
“He’s been frustrated, but I told him I’m not worried about how he’s playing right now, or how he’s scoring. I know what he can do,” Nagy said.
Despite the veteran presence, the Raiders aren’t going into the season with a pat hand. They lost a pair of conference all-defensive team picks in Mark Hughes and Parker Ernsthausen along with another defensive-minded player in Alan Vest.
“We’re more talented and deeper, for sure. But we’re missing some guys who took so much pride in their defense,” Nagy said.
“My hope would be that we’d have a couple more guys on the all-defensive team. If we do, then we’re going to have a tremendous team.”
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