Winning causes

The things that matter

By Marc Katz

Wright State’s men’s basketball team opened practice this week, and second-year coach Scott Nagy knows his longevity on campus is tied to the number of games he wins, not the number of scholars he graduates, or the number of good causes he promotes.

He also knows there is life out there without basketball. You’ll see that at least a couple times this winter by looking at Nagy’s feet.

With all the storms and earthquakes we have exploding about us (no, I’m not talking about the President), this seems to be as good a time as any to talk about charity.

Like a lot of coaches—especially those at Wright State (WSU) and Dayton (UD)—Nagy is out front with his desire to help. He doesn’t think that’s unusual, and gives the impression he shouldn’t be lauded for doing a good deed. He thinks his platform has space for causes as well as to make the NCAA tournament.

For years, WSU, University of Dayton, and coaches across the nation have had one home game designated as Coaches for Cancer, where all the coaches wear sneakers instead of dress shoes with their suits on the sideline.

“I think that’s an easy one for the coaches to support,” Nagy said in a recent interview. “Cancer touches so many people. It hasn’t impacted me. I don’t want to say it hasn’t impacted some of the people I’m close to, it just hasn’t impacted my family or (close friends).”

Look for this game, and Dayton’s, when they are announced. There is also a tip-off reception at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium where businesses can explore sponsorship opportunities. Look on-line at for more information.

For Nagy, there will be another game this winter where he won’t wear any shoes at all.

“Coaches embrace all kinds of things for certain reasons,” he said. “To me, it’s Samaritan’s Feet (SF). It allows me to be involved with my adopted daughter’s country of Haiti.”

While Coaches for Cancer was initiated in 1993 by cancer survivor and University of Missouri coach, Norm Stewart, and has raised nearly $100 million for the American Cancer Society since, Samaritan’s Feet became an official charity in 2003, under the guidance of Emmanuel “Manny” and Tracie Ohonme.

They have given away 6.5 million pair of shoes in 75 countries, spotlighting their cause with coaches who coach in their bare feet.

“I really believe in Manny’s mission,” Nagy said. “I really wanted to get on board with what he’s trying to accomplish.”

Nagy learned of the charity when he was coaching at South Dakota State (SDS) and Dayton native Ron Hunter (now at Georgia State) was coaching in his league with Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). Hunter coached a game in his bare feet, and Nagy asked about it. When he found out he could help Haiti, he was all in.

“With athletics, our kids have all kinds of shoes,” Nagy said. “It was easy. I could do a game in my bare feet.”

The first year, Nagy’s appeal collected more than 2,000 pairs of shoes. Since, he and the charity have realized collecting money, and then buying the shoes was much more efficient. While he has a soft spot for Haiti (we’ll get to that), Nagy realizes the need to help everywhere.

“There are always people who need things,” Nagy said. “You could do it all in Dayton if you wanted to. There are enough people who need things in Dayton.

“We did a shoe distribution in Dayton last year. It creates some opportunities for our team to just be able to serve other people.”

Scott and his wife Jamie already had four children when they decided one more would complete their family, only their doctor cautioned after four C-Sections, having a fifth child might be dangerous.

The Nagy’s knew something about adoption through family histories, and Naika came into their lives when she was just a week old.

After aligning with Samaritan’s Feet, Nagy took one of his SDS teams to Haiti in conjunction with SF and Feed the Hungry. There was no basketball involved. With Samaritan’s Feet, the “primary goal is to introduce Jesus Christ to people around the world. They do it with shoes. We wash people’s feet and give them a brand new pair of socks and a brand new pair of shoes.

“In Haiti, you’re giving them their first pair of shoes. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done with a basketball team, and it didn’t have anything to do with basketball.”

There’s something else at play here. Nagy cautions student-athletes not to become so self-absorbed, that adults and other students aren’t going to be so obsessed with how they’re doing once their playing ability is used up.

“We want to help our kids be interested in other people,” Nagy said. “We were going to take a (WSU) team trip to Haiti in August. We pushed it back a year because we had (Ryan Custer) get hurt (in a freak party accident). It knocked us for a loop. We’re hoping Ryan can go with us next year.”

Next year is long range in coach-speak. Who knows if Wright State will continue to be happy with Nagy after his second season? Who knows if Nagy will remain happy here?

We also don’t know how many games his team will win. We do know several charities will benefit. The causes are good ones.


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Columbus-born Marc Katz had a 44-year newspaper career, 41 of those years covering sports, 40 of them at the Dayton Daily News. He now blogs at Reach Dayton City Paper sports writer Marc Katz at

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