Scott Nagy, former Delta State point guard, makes his return to Mississippi Saturday night when he coaches Wright State against Mississippi State at Mississippi Coliseum.
Nagy looks forward to seeing old friends but says he’s not so sure he looks forward to the game itself.
“I’d feel a whole lot better if Mississippi State wasn’t so danged good,” Nagy said Thursday by phone from his Dayton, Ohio, home. “Those guys can really, really play.”
The Bulldogs can. Mississippi State is off to a 10-1 start and is ranked No. 17 in the land. Ben Howland’s ‘Dogs are really good, really deep. Wright State, which will be missing three of its top eight players because of injuries, is off to a 6-6 start. The Raiders, an NCAA Tournament team last year when they finished 25-10, will be a decided underdog.
But you should know Nagy’s team won at Georgia Tech last season. And you should also know this is not the first time Nagy has gone up against a Mississippi State team when nobody gave his team much of a chance. Nagy was a sophomore point guard on the 1985-86 Delta State team that went to Starkville on Dec. 10, 1985, and defeated Bob Boyd’s Bulldogs 56-53. You could look it up.
Ed Murphy was the Delta State coach at the time. Yes, and he landed the Ole Miss job the following year at least partially because of Delta State’s victory over State. After all, Ole Miss wasn’t winning at Starkville at the time.
“This probably sounds crazy now, but I think we had better players than Mississippi State did,” Nagy said. “We may have been Division II but we were really, really good.”
That team included a freshman named Gerald Glass, who would later follow Murphy to Ole Miss, make all-SEC and play in the NBA. The Statesmen also had sharpshooters on the wing named Carl Brown and James Berkley.
“That might have been the best college team I ever played on,” Glass said. “I really believe we could have been at least competitive in the SEC.”
One of the reasons, Glass said, was the Yankee point guard, Nagy, from Champaign, Ill.
“Scott got the ball where it needed to go,” Glass said. “He was totally unselfish. He was probably the best shooter on the team, but he rarely shot the ball. He was more interested in distributing the ball. He was definitely our smartest player, like a coach on the floor.”
Nagy’s dad, Dick Nagy, was a coach on Lou Henson’s staff at Illinois. He was a Syracuse native – as was Ed Murphy – and that was the connection that brought Scott Nagy to Mississippi. Scott Nagy rode the train to Memphis and then caught a ride to Cleveland where culture shock ensued.
“Mostly I was shocked at how segregated everything was,” Nagy said. “And I had a hard time with the accents. It was an adjustment for sure. But I met so many great people, made so many really good friends. I learned to love the people and the food. My gosh, the food. To tell you the truth, it was hard to leave there.”
Former Delta State basketball player Jason Case, now the principal and girls basketball coach at Brookhaven Academy, was one of those friends Nagy met at Delta State. They remain good friends today. In fact, Case will bus his team to Jackson for Saturday night’s game.
“I was two years ahead of Scott when he got to Delta State,” Case said. “He had this strange, northern accent and he didn’t have a car and he didn’t know anybody. I figured it was my job to give him some culture.”
Culture: Case introduced Nagy to his parents in Bogue Chitto. Case’s mama introduced Nagy to buttermilk biscuits, purple hull peas and Southern cuisine. They also introduced him to their pet dog.
“I remember, his name was Big Dog,” Nagy said, laughing. “Seriously, that was his name. Big Dog. I remember Jason’s daddy chewed tobacco and had this thick Southern accent. I could barely understand a word he said. I’ll never forget that.”
Nagy made an impression on Mississippi, too. He started every game in four years at Delta State. He holds the all-time Delta State assists record. The guy classmates at first called “a Yankee” was voted Mr. Delta State as a senior. He is a member of Delta State’s athletic and university halls of fame.
He has excelled as a coach as well. His teams have won 461 games while losing 268 over 23 seasons at South Dakota State and Wright State. At South Dakota State he guided the program from Division II to Division I and then into the NCAA Tournament three times. His first two Wright State teams won 20 and 25 games. They won the Horizon League tournament last season.
“If we get some of people back I think we’ll be competitive in our league again this season,” Nagy said. “I’m not sure we’re ready for what we’re facing Saturday night, but I am ready to see some old friends.”