One of just 13 coaches at the Division I level with at least 20 years at their current school, Scott Nagy returns for his 21st season at South Dakota State just 16 wins shy of earning his 400th career win, and in search of the team’s fifth straight postseason appearance after guiding the Jackrabbits to the postseason in each of the last four years, which includes back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths in 2012 and 2013, a bid to the College Basketball Invitational in 2014 and an NIT berth in 2015, when the No. 8 seed Jackrabbits picked up their first postseason win at the Division I level with an 86-76 upset at top-seeded Colorado State.
Before leading SDSU into the Division I era, Nagy led the Jacks to eight NCAA Tournaments at the Division II level, with an Elite 8 appearance in 1997.
The most prolific coach in school history, Nagy seems to hit a personal or team milestone every season, with the latest being the program’s first DI postseason win, which came a season after the program’s 1,400 win on Dec. 4, 2013, a dominating 88-62 win over Dakota State.
The 2012-13 season saw a slough of milestones for Nagy, both individual and team related, starting on Dec. 22, 2012, with a win at No. 16 New Mexico; the Jacks first-ever win over a ranked team. The season culminated with the Jacks second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and included the Jackrabbits second straight undefeated season at home, which pushed the home winning streak to 30 in a row, a school record and the longest streak in all of Division I basketball at the start of the 2013-14 season.
All those milestones came on the heels of a record-setting 2011-12 season that saw Nagy win his 300th career game on Dec. 28, 2011, a 94-58 win over IPFW at Frost Arena, his Jackrabbits tied a school record with 27 wins and earned a chance to dance for the first time in Division I.
In his 20 years at SDSU, Nagy guided the Jackrabbits through the transition from Division II to Division I, built an impressive 384-232 record (.623 winning percentage) at the Division I and Division II levels, and guided the Jacks to North Central Conference championships in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2002, adding Summit League Tournament titles in 2012 and 2013, along with Summit League regular season titles in both 2013 and 2015.
Nagy also directed the Jacks to the NCAA Regional Tournament from 1996-1998 and from 2000-2004, and hosted the North Central Regional Tournament in 1997, 1998 and 2000. He also led the Jacks to the Elite Eight tournament in 1997. All of those accomplishments played a part in him earning North Central Conference Coach of the Year five times in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002 and 2003.
Before he ever made his mark coaching though, Nagy made a name for himself on the basketball court, as a standout student-athlete at Delta State University in Cleveland, Miss.
A year after graduating from Centennial High School in Champaign, Ill., Nagy led the Statesman to a second place finish in the league and a berth in the NCAA Tournament with a 20-11 record, earning him a Gulf South Freshman of the Year nod.
A year later, DSU won the conference title and advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a 23-8 record.
The Statesmen finished second in the Gulf South in Nagy’s junior year, but they still advanced to the NCAA Tournament, and eventually to the Final Four, with a 24-9 overall record.
Delta State did not make the tournament in Nagy’s senior year, but he still garnered Gulf South Conference Athlete of the Year honors in 1988.
Adding to his accomplishments on the court, Nagy also excelled in the classroom, earning Gulf South All-Academic honors for three straight years.
Nagy still holds the Delta State record for games played in a career with 122, career assists with 549, assists in a season with 234 and assists in a game with 15, which he did twice.
Nagy’s skills on and off the court earned him an induction into the Delta State Sports Hall of Fame in 2001.
Nagy graduated from Delta State with a degree in business administration in 1988, and embarked on his coaching career, which started with two seasons as a graduate assistant at the University of Illinois under head coach Lou Henson.
In Nagy’s two seasons in Champaign, the Illini advanced to the NCAA tournament twice, including a trip to the Final Four in 1989. On top of that, his two years at Illinois gave him the opportunity to coach along side of his dad Dick, a longtime Illinois assistant.
Nagy earned his master’s degree in physical education from Illinois in 1990, and then came to South Dakota State as an assistant coach under head coach Jim Thorson from 1990-93.
In his first year on the SDSU bench, the Jackrabbits won the NCC postseason tournament title, the second year they won the NCC regular season title and in all three years the Jacks advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Nagy left South Dakota State in 1993 to take a job as an assistant under head coach Jack Margenthaler at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville for two seasons before coming back to Brookings in 1995 as the Jackrabbits 20th head coach.
Just 29 years old when he took over the program, Nagy started his winning ways in his first season on the job, when he led the Jacks to the NCC title and to a second place finish at the region tournament. In his first season as a head coach on any level, he earned NCC Coach of the Year honors, as the Jacks finished the season with a 24-5 record.
Things only got better in year two, when Nagy guided the Jackrabbits to an 86-74 win over defending national champion Fort Hays State in the regional tournament, earning the Jacks a trip to the Elite 8 in Springfield, Mass. The Jacks finished the season with a 25-5 record, and for the second time in as many years, The NCC named Nagy its Coach of the Year.
Nagy’s Jackrabbits jumped out to a 21-0 start and a number one rank in the country to start year three, as SDSU cruised to its third straight NCC title and second place finish at the region tournament. Nagy also took home NCC Coach of the Year honors for the third straight year and tied a school record for wins with 26.
After just one year out of postseason play, Nagy led his team back to the NCAA Regional Tournament in the next two years with a combined record of 43-16 and picked up his 100th career win on Dec. 14, 1999, in a 69-52 win over Dakota Wesleyan.
Nagy earned NCC Coach of the Year honors for a fourth time in 2002, when he led the Jackrabbits to a 15-1 start against NCC foes. SDSU went on to win the regular and postseason conference titles, but finished second in the regional tournament, losing to the eventual national champion Metropolitan State.
Injuries plagued the Jacks in 2003, but Nagy rallied the team to a 24-7 season. They finished second in the NCC, qualified for the region tournament and he earned NCC Coach of the Year honors for a fifth time, becoming the first coach in conference history win the award without winning the regular season title.
In the final year of Division II competition, Nagy lead the Jackrabbits to a 17-0 start and a second place finish in the NCC. The Jacks advanced to the regional tournament, where the season eventually ended with a school record 27 wins.
Nagy also won his 200th game in 2004, a 92-79 win over South Dakota on Jan. 9, in the Jacks final Division II game against the Coyotes in Frost Arena, and he did it in front of 8,489 fans.
The all-time leader in men's basketball coaching victories at SDSU, when the Jacks left NCAA Division II, Nagy ranked second among active DII coaches at with a .781 winning percentage.
Now with 11 seasons with at least 20-wins to his credit, history proves that Nagy wins games, and despite four 20-loss seasons in the tumultuous transition to Division I, he led the Jackrabbits to the top of The Summit League with a number of record-breaking seasons, and looks to continue his winning ways for years to come.