By A.V. Sherk
Professionals either have a career or answer a calling. Nick McDevitt found both when he accepted the men’s basketball head coach position at UNC Asheville.
“I think it doesn’t matter what business you’re in. You just want to keep striving to do more and be more,” the Bulldogs’ new coach said.
All 13 years of his coaching experience were under coach Biedenbach with the UNCA Bulldogs. McDevitt’s office is a shrine to the accomplishments of the UNCA basketball team. Autographed basketballs, championship photos, even photos in basketball-themed frames line the desk.
However, McDevitt is more than a devoted coach. McDevitt is a lifetime Bulldog.
“Once I was finally an assistant coach, it only fueled that fire within me that someday I want to run my own program,” McDevitt said. “After having been around this university for 10 or 12 years, within this community, I just wanted more and more to run the program here at UNC Asheville.”
Born in Asheville, McDevitt grew up in Marshal and played point guard for Madison High School.
Both his father and his uncle were coaches, and though he may not have known it at first, Nick McDevitt was intuitively trained to coach.
“I did what I felt at the time was right. I didn’t really know that’s what I was striving for, or meant to do, as a young boy or as a teenager or a high school athlete,” McDevitt said. “Even just casually watching sporting events while I was growing up, we were always somewhat coaching as we watched the game. It was something that I always enjoyed.”
When choosing a college, McDevitt wanted what any teenager wants when born and raised in a small town.
“I wanted to go off to college,” McDevitt said. “UNCA was not a school that I was looking at or a school where I was considering to play college basketball. But after taking a visit to campus, meeting the people, the professors, my future teammates and also coach Biedenbach, I just fell in love with the university and the program. I had a great experience here, obviously as I have never left, and I am still here after 17 years later.”
McDevitt visited several colleges between his junior and senior years of high school. He heard similar lines from basketball coaches trying to recruit him,but only Biedenbach seemed interested in what McDevitt had planned for his future.
He told Biedenbach that he wanted to become a coach, and four years later Biedenbach remembered what McDevitt told him.
“After four years of playing here, luck had it or timing had it, one of my assistant coaches took another job. I was in the right place at the right time, and coach Biedenbach remembered what I had said four years ago about being interested in being a college coach. He put me on his staff right away at the age of 22, only a month after graduating out of college. I felt honored and privileged that he felt confident enough in me to turn that position over to me,” McDevitt said.
Biedenbach’s attitude led the Bulldogs to a school record 24 wins during the 2011- 2012 season, three NCAA tournament appearances, and finished first in the Big South conference four times in his career at Asheville.
“Biedenbach said, not only to me but to the others that worked with me and for him, our decision-making process is always about the players,” McDevitt said. “Sometimes it means showing them tough love or discipline. But also it can include decisions like when do we leave for an away game, what is in the best interest for our players academically, and not taking them out of class.”
The years of playing for and working under Biedenbach drove this point home to McDevitt.
“Looking back onto our playing days, it became more clear once I was working with him some of the decisions that Biedenbach made while I was a player that were really in the best interest of the players,” McDevitt said. “I think that’s what coach Biedenbach was always about. He is about people, but particularly he was about the players, always. Whether it was raising money by playing guarantee games, running a golf tournament to help raise scholarship dollars. Whatever it was, it was always about our program and our players”
Biedenbach’s era will always be honored at UNCA, but a new chapter is beginning. McDevitt is at the helm now, and he sees great potential within his team for greatness.
“One thing coach Biedenbach said, ‘You have to be your own man.’ You can’t fake it, you can’t be something you’re not or someone you’re not,” McDevitt said. “There will be some tweaks and some changes made, whether it be our normal daily routine or the offenses and defenses that we run. But so far, from our summer workouts and continuing through our fall workouts, we’re really excited about seeing some the improvements that our returning players have made and also we think we’re going to get a lot of help from some of the newcomers as well.”
McDevitt knows all about the transition from high school to college athletics.
“That’s the biggest jump, from high school to college,” McDevitt said. “The increasing strength of the players and the speed of the game makes college basketball a different animal and a challenging process. The interesting thing is always to see if your preseason workouts translate to in game production. We’ll be interested to see who is capable, early on their career, of adjusting to the speed of college play and the strength of the game. The ones that get comfortable with that earlier will be the ones who separate themselves and are able to play earlier in their career.”
The team has plenty of adjustments to make, not the least of which including who will fill the leadership positions without Jon Nwannunu, Jeremy Atkinson and Keith Hornsby.
“Something we’re still looking for is who is going to take up the leadership role, it’s a work in progress and an open competition,” McDevitt said. “It’s fun to watch that process. It’s fun to see which guys want that role, and which guys are ready to step up and lead a group of their peers. Whoever it is, it will be a new role for them. That’s part of the fun of coaching 18- to 22-year-olds is watching them mature physically, mentally, and socially.”