Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Life and Basketball: The Nick McDevitt Story


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Story by Calvin White / Contributing Writer

Coaching is defined as unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. If you ask almost any coach in any sport, they will tell you that coaching is a calling that requires an extreme passion. For Nick McDevitt, he found that passion and calling early.

“I loved basketball and I knew that I wanted to try and have an impact on young people’s lives,” McDevitt said. “Those two things kind of lend itself toward coaching.

McDevitt is the head men’s basketball coach at Middle Tennessee State University, but his basketball timeline extends way back to his days at Madison High School in Marshall, NC where he led the Patriots to three straight conference championships. McDevitt is Madison High’s all-time leader in assists and steals and averaged 17 points and 10 assists his senior year, earning all-region honors by the Asheville Citizen-Times.

For college, McDevitt only had one place on his mind, UNC Asheville. With this decision, McDevitt joined a long list of family members that also attended the university. For a large portion of his life, McDevitt bled UNC Asheville blue and white.

“West North Carolina is where I grew up. It was home,” McDevitt said. “My dad, uncle, sister, and cousin all went to UNC Asheville. My grandfather put the plumbing in the original dorms on campus and so UNC Asheville was really all that I had known and because of that and because of how special a place like Asheville, NC is to raise a family, we had nothing to run from. We had a great situation there with my wife and my kids and we knew we would never leave Asheville unless it was to run to something.”

McDevitt was a four year player under former head coach Eddie Biedenbach. In his senior campaign, McDevitt led the Bulldogs in three-point shooting percentage where he knocked down 52 percent of his shots from long distance. McDevitt was also named to the Big South Conference all-academic team his junior and senior year and was also a member of the Dean’s list four different times. He was also a member of the Big South Presidential Honor Roll three times and served on the National Association of Basketball Coaches Student Basketball Council his junior and senior years.

After graduating in May 2001, McDevitt joined Biedenbach’s staff as an assistant coach. As McDevitt said, he wanted to try and have an impact on young people’s lives. Before he became a mentor himself, McDevitt had to be mentored.

“One of the main reasons I attended UNC Asheville was the thought to be able to coach shortly after college.” McDevitt said. “In the recruiting process he asked me what I wanted to do post college and I told him I’d like to coach basketball and so he said if you come here to UNC Asheville and you learn our system then we’ll keep you on as a graduate assistant. The spring I graduated, two of the assistants took other jobs and so he needed somebody to stay on and help him right away so I was fortunate enough to be a full time coach and out there recruiting straight out of college.”

McDevitt held his position as assistant coach until 2013 when he took over as head coach upon Biedenbach’s resignation. He was just the sixth head coach in program history and only the third coach in Big South history to win 15 or more games in each of his first four seasons. McDevitt also has the second most wins in a season in program history with 23 in 2017 while being named Big South coach of the year. McDevitt also led the Bulldogs to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2016.

After being a part of the Bulldog family for nearly 20 years, McDevitt and his family found something to run toward. In 2018 the McDevitt family packed their bags and headed to Murfreesboro, TN where the head ball coach would accept a job offer to be the next head coach of the Middle Tennessee State University Blue Raiders after former head coach Kermit Davis left for Ole Miss.

McDevitt’s first three years as the head man in Murfreesboro didn’t produce the results he would have liked, going just 24-62 over his first three seasons. In his fourth season, it all seemed to click for McDevitt and his Blue Raiders, finishing with an overall record of 26-11 and a second place finish in Conference USA to go along with an appearance in the championship game of the College Basketball Invitational. McDevitt had brought life back to the program that the fanbase hadn’t seen since Kermit Davis left.

“One thing I heard during the search process for Nick, Kermit was one of the guys that really turned the athletic department on to Nick’s potential,” Middle Tennessee staff writer Sam Doughton said. “One of the reasons he struggled is because when he first got here, he only had four scholarship guys and he struggled a lot getting out of that just because he didn’t have the guys he needed to run what he wanted to run. Now that he’s got a full complement of scholarship guys and he’s having guys stick around they’re only going to keep getting better, particularly in a time where Conference USA is in a flux with a lot of the best teams losing their best players and a lot of schools leaving the conference.”

Playing for a coach like McDevitt can be difficult for some guys. A coach that demands your very best night in and night out with the heart of a winner. Donovan Sims is one of the four scholarship players that stuck around when McDevitt was hired. A native of Murfreesboro who stayed the course and put all his faith in his new head coach.

“When you play for a coach like Coach McDevitt, it’s cool because he allows you to have freedom within the system and allows you to also mold yourself into the player that you want to be,” Sims said. “During my time at Middle, he’s meant a lot because he helped me mold who I was as a player and who I was as a person. He’s given us lessons that we can remember for the rest of our lives on and off the court and has always been positive.”

A love of basketball and a need to make an impact on people’s lives has led McDevitt down a path of unforgettable memories. McDevitt has won a lot of games but has touched even more lives along the way. Whether it was in tiny Marshall, NC or the growing city of Murfreesboro, TN, his impact stretches beyond the basketball court.

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