NCAA Tournament Interviews: South Dakota State's Scott Nagy

March 8th, 2012
As part of his NCAA Tournament interview series CHN writer caught up with South Dakota State head coach Scott Nagy, whose Jackrabbits will be making the first NCAA appearance in school history. Led by point guard Nate Wolters and lone senior Griffan Callahan, the Jackrabbits finished second in the regular season and then won three straight in Sioux Falls to grab the automatic bid.

Jon Teitel: You made the 1989 Final Four with Illinois as a graduate assistant to Lou Henson (who remains one of the 20 winningest coaches in NCAA history). What made Henson such a great coach, and what is the key to winning games in the tournament?

Scott Nagy: Henson really stressed defense and rebounding to both me and my dad (Dick Nagy, who was also an assistant coach for Henson). I do not know the exact key. We had such a good and athletic team that it was hard for anyone to beat us that year.

JT: Your most impressive performance of the season was a 19-point win on the road over Washington in December to end the Huskies' 32-game non-conference home winning streak. How on earth did you score 92 points on only 12 assists, and what did you learn from that win that will help you in March?

SN: We shot the ball great, as we started out the game 7-7 from three-point land. We also have a tremendous point guard in Nate Wolters who can either score or find someone who is open.

JT: There were allegedly 11 different NBA scouts at the Summit League tournament who came to watch five of the Top 15 scorers in the nation (Dominique Morrison, Reggie Hamilton, Alex Young, Frank Gaines and Wolters). Which of the four besides Nate impressed you the most this season, and do you think that any of them will end up getting drafted?

SN: Dominique was probably the top player. He really improved his shooting from his first three years, which really set him apart. I think he would need to pass and rebound a little better for someone his size to make it in the NBA.

JT: Griffan Callahan made two free throws with 15 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and then made the game-winning three pointer in a two-point overtime win over Western Illinois in the Summit League title game. What makes him such a great player, and how crucial is senior leadership to winning games?

SN: He is our only senior and our best defender. If you look back at all of our games this season, Griff was almost always the guy to take and make our biggest shots. I just knew his three pointer was going in.

JT: Wolters is the only Division I player in the nation averaging 20-plus points, six-plus assists and five-plus rebounds per game, and was named conference tournament MVP despite a 5-for-22 shooting performance in the title game. How crucial is it for him to get back on track for you to have any chance of winning a game in the NCAA tournament?

SN: He has had a bad game here or there but not many very many. He still [accounted for] 14 points, six rebounds and four assists, so I am not concerned about his ability to bounce back. To win a game in the NCAA tournament against a good team he is going to have to play great.

JT: This will be your school's first to the NCAA tournament in only its fourth year of eligibility since making the leap from Division II to Division I. How have you been able to accomplish so much in such a short time span?

SN: Number one is that we have recruited a lot better players. We are not huge inside but we have big guards and were one of the best offensive teams in the country last year. We also take good care of the basketball.

JT: Some people have said that your team making the tournament is the biggest sports moment in the history of South Dakota. Do you get the sense that the entire state is rallying around you?

SN: No question. People know me wherever I go and we are the largest school in the state with the most alums. I do not know if it is the biggest moment, but it is definitely up there.

JT: Your women's team is making its fourth straight trip to the NCAA tournament after a one-point overtime win over UMKC earlier this week. Have you had a chance to talk to their coach (Aaron Johnston) for some advice about what to expect in the NCAA tournament?

SN: The women's tourney is different from ours. Aaron used to be my grad assistant. I have not had a chance to talk with him yet, but I have been through it before as a grad assistant.

JT: Oral Roberts had 27 wins this season, was the regular-season Summit League champ, and had the conference Player (Morrison) and Coach (Scott Sutton) of the year. Do you think they will make history by getting an at-large berth and putting two Summit League teams into the tournament?

SN: As far as "will they?" my guess is no, but I think they should get in without question. In my mind there is no doubt that they are one of the top 68 teams in the country. Their talent is Top-25 in the nation, but they were so far ahead in our league that it was probably hard for Coach Sutton to keep his players motivated. If you shut it down it is hard to turn it back on, and they had a number of close games late in the year against teams they should have been blowing out.

JT: What seed do you think you deserve, and what kind of team would you matchup against the best?

SN: I think we have a good lock on a 13 seed due to our RPI, but we might even get a 12. My hope is that we play a team that is more free-flowing and does not try to muck up the game by slowing it down like Western Illinois did.