It didn’t take long for one of South Dakota State’s basketball coaches to garner an interview - men’s coach Scott Nagy landed one (or something like it) at Ball State on Thursday, just one week after being bounced from the NCAA Division I tournament. A few musings on this:
Jackrabbits athletic director Justin Sell seems to have a sound approach to all of this, which he explained to me earlier in the week by coincidence during a podcast. If Nagy or women’s coach Aaron Johnston were to leave, Sell would have to pay (at least) market value for a replacement. So why not give those salaries now to coaches that he already has and likes? Exactly.
The Jacks should be determined to put themselves in position to pay at that level - where anything remotely resembling a lateral move just doesn’t make sense. Johnston is getting close to that kind of money; Nagy is on his way there.
That means two things: Increasing annual salaries and extending multiple-year contracts. The latter has more hurdles than the former as it requires state approval, but it’s also arguably less important right now given the long-term relationships that are in place.
That said, I’m not sure Nagy will be offered the Ball State job nor is it certain he’d accept. He’s long maintained that he’ll listen to offers - that never hurts. Likewise, leverage is good - not in a malicious way; more to help ensure SDSU will continue to boost pay (and general support) to get in line with its peers. That group, by the way, is changing. The Jacks can’t offer $2 million a year. But it’s not unreasonable for them to pay $200,000 to a coach that leads a perennial conference contender. That’s only the $152K Nagy is currently making plus the roughly $35K the school gets for making the tournament and then a little more (maybe the extra brought in from ticket sales.)
Opportunities are bound to happen for both Nagy and Johnston. However, both are smart enough and have enough longevity that a move like Ball State would be a tad surprising.
What makes more sense is the Tim Miles Plan. The South Dakota native didn’t leave North Dakota State for the first decent offer, ultimately parlaying success in Fargo into a considerable bump in conference and contract at Colorado State before winding up at Nebraska. That path isn’t available to everybody, of course. But Nagy and Johnston have enough going for them at SDSU (and with more facility improvements on the way) to be able to be picky.
And, finally, the search process has gotten, well, complicated. Apparently, athletic directors don’t always call to ask permission to interview already-employed coaches. Why? In part because head-hunting firms often do the legwork of creating a talent pool. And a good chunk of coaches - even at mid-majors - have agents or reps, and those agents or reps may have multiple clients, sometimes vying for the same job.
To that end, I’ve only paid attention to the Ball State gig for a few hours and have noticed at least four coaches with Summit League ties throw into the mix either by fact or speculation (another major issue, by the way): Nagy, Jim Molinari of Western Illinois, Saul Phillips of NDSU and Dane Fife, formerly of Fort Wayne. So this search is worth watching no matter what sort of contact Nagy has going forward.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.