Nutt resigns after 13 years
Published: Friday, February 22, 2008
Updated: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 15:09
It's the end of an era at Arkansas State as ASU head men's basketball coach Dickey Nutt resigned Tuesday morning.
Nutt's resignation was made official at a 6:30 p.m. press conference and came about after a meeting earlier Tuesday with Director of Athletics Dean Lee.
"I met with Coach Dickey Nutt earlier today, and he informed me that he was going to relinquish his duties as head men's basketball coach and remain an employee at ASU through the length of his existing contract," Lee said. "We respect his decision and will honor his request."
Nutt's resignation will go into effect immediately, a decision that comes two days before the Indians (9-17, 4-11 Sun Belt West) travel to Little Rock to take on instate rival UALR. The team will try to end a seven-game losing streak, but they will have to do it without Nutt.
"As you know, this season as been a difficult one with the adversity we have faced. I've never had a team that has worked harder or been closer together than this team," Nutt said. "Our record doesn't indicate the fight that this team has in it. After conferring with Dr. Lee this morning, I've agreed to step down and resign as head men's basketball coach at Arkansas State University."
Lee said that he has appointed assistant coaches Al Grushkin and Shawn Forrest as co-interim head coaches.
"We are very fortunate to have an outstanding staff at Arkansas State University and two outstanding assistants that I have named interim co-head coaches," Lee said. "This may not be the norm in basketball to a great extent. It is done in football extensively with co-coordinators and those types of things. But with the knowledge (and) experience, I felt it would be foolish of me not to take full advantage of their experience and their expertise."
Grushkin will handle the competitive aspects of the program, while Forrest will handle the administrative aspects of the program.
The Herald first reported Tuesday afternoon that Grushkin and Forrest would be named co-interim head coaches.
Nutt was in his 13th season as Indian head coach and 20th season overall with the program. Nutt served as an assistant under former head coach Nelson Catalina for eight seasons before being promoted to head coach before the start of the 1995-96 season.
Success hard to maintain
Nutt finished his ASU head coaching career with a career record of 189-187. He was three wins shy of becoming the all-time winningest coach in Tribe history behind John Rauth (191 victories). However, Nutt's 187 career losses were the most ever by an ASU coach.
Perhaps Nutt's greatest fault was having success early in his ASU coaching career. In his third season at the helm of the Tribe, the team posted a 20-9 record, with a 14-4 conference mark.
Nutt followed with an 18-12 record in 1998-99, but it wasn't the record that was important as the Indians defeated Western Kentucky 65-48 in the SBC Championship game and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history.
With the initial success, Nutt's name was rumored in connection with vacancies at UALR and Baylor. As a result, ASU President Les Wyatt offered and signed Nutt to a five-year extension worth $1.25 million.
With the tournament appearance and extension, basketball euphoria had swept Northeast Arkansas and continued success seemed certain.
"I hope the nation saw our program. We have been outstanding in the conference, and we want to lead the way in promoting the Sun Belt Conference. We'll build on this and continue to grow."
Those were the words of Nutt following the team's NCAA appearance against Utah. But instead of moving forward, the Indians slipped backwards in the seasons to come.
A 10-18 season followed and over the past nine seasons (including 2007-08), ASU has put together only four winning seasons and never returned to the NCAA Tournament. The closet the team came was last season when ASU finished with an 18-15 record, including an 11-7 mark in SBC play. Any chance of a return trip to the Big Dance was dashed with an 83-75 defeat to North Texas in the SBC Championship game.
"I regret that we didn't get our team back to the NCAA Tournament, and I regret that. I regret that we didn't win back-to-back championships off our championship year last year," Nutt said. "I do leave you with this. I can't begin to tell you how it was an honor and a privilege to be your coach. I mean that from the bottom of my heart.
"We've had a lot of good times, and we've certainly had some heartbreaks, but I can't begin to tell you how I loved my experience, and I will never, ever forget it. I will always be an Arkansas State Indian to the end."