By GREG MENGELT
When Doc Nash arrived, Borden had a history filled with great players and strong teams.
What the program didn’t have was championships.
As Nash recalls, athletic director Toby Cheatham and principal Lisa Nale believed in him from the start. The way Nash remembers it, his administration’s faith in him never wavered, despite only having a junior varsity coaching background at Austin and a rough first season that included a 2-5 start.
Nash’s first Braves’ team eventually finished 11-10 in 2006-07. Just a year later, Nash led Borden to its first sectional title — then its first regional crown — in school history.
Since then, sectional titles have become routine. Four in the past six years, to be exact.
Cheatham’s and Nale’s faith was clearly rewarded — even before this 2013 magical post-season run.
Just as Borden was completing its first state championship in school history, its fans seemed insistent in changing the name of the town.
“This is Nashville! This is Nashville!” the Braves’ fans chanted.
Nash didn’t just win. He won with class.
With nine seconds remaining in Saturday’s triumph, Nash called a timeout. Indianapolis Star reporter Kyle Neddenriep tweeted that Nash called the timeout to remind his team that there was a team on the floor that would be dejected after coming so close then failing to winning the state championship.
“As great as we’re feeling right now, there’s another team over there that’s hurting,” Nash recalled telling his team. “That very easily could have been us. I just wanted them to handle it with class and shake hands.”
As much as the Borden administration believed in him, Nash showed the same faith in his players.
“He always tells us he believes in us,” Borden senior Jalen McCoy said.
The following exclusive interview was conducted by News and Tribune sports editor Greg Mengelt minutes after the game and prior to Nash’s press conference.
It is Nash’s immediate reaction to his and his team’s state title.
• QUESTION: What’s your initial thought on winning a state championship?
• NASH: “Unbelievable! It’s unbelievable! It’s bittersweet. [Choking up with tears in his eyes.] It’s bittersweet because I don’t get to see our seniors play anymore. [Voice cracking]. Sorry. These guys are a special group of kids.”
• Q: Coming into this season, did you ever allow yourself to dream about this?
• NASH: “It’s one of our goals every year. I’ve dreamed about it every day since I was a kid. It shows you what all the hard work, what all the dedication, the time spent — before school, after school, in the summer, in the fall — all that hard work pays off.”
• Q: How was this team able to handle everything that came its way?
• NASH: “With poise. Like I knew they would. This is a good group of kids who are mature, fun to be around and great representation of our school and the community. You know, they just handled everything like I thought they would.”
• Q: [Triton] ramped up the pressure in the fourth quarter and you guys seemed to handle it ...
• NASH: “It bothered us a little, but that’s my fault. [Triton coach Jason Groves] played man [defense] all tournament. Their length and athleticism bothered us. Give them credit. They were good. [Trojan star Clay] Yeo was a stud. He’s a stud. We competed and played well.”
• Q: You hit those three 3-pointers in a row. Then a week after struggling to make free throws at the end of the game, you hit almost all of them down the stretch today. Just talk about how clutch you were.
• NASH: “It just shows their toughness and how much guts they have. Our kids have a lot of guts. I think playing in the regional last year helped us, the way we played. These kids were experienced for big-time games this year. Any time they were challenged, they came though.”
• Q: Talk about your defense in the first half, holding them to nine points, especially Cody Bachman’s.
• NASH: “Unreal. Cody’s a warrior. He’s a competitor. Goodness gracious. He held a [NCAA] Division I kid to two points on a bad wheel. He’s a winner. He started it with his mentality and it carried over to everybody else.”
• Q: We’ve talked several times about how throughout the whole tournament, you’ve had all these close games. You just kind of did whatever it took to win. It seemed like a different way, a different player every time. Can you explain that?
• NASH: “That’s their mentality. We preach composure, we preach toughness. I’m just like every other coach. The only difference between me and somebody else is my guys have talent and they brought into everything we wanted to do. That’s it. There are no secrets.”
• Q: You had some games in this tournament — at least two — that you weren’t as talented as the other side. At least not the top-end talent. How were you able to overcome that?
• NASH: “I’ll tell you, there were probably five teams in this tournament that we weren’t as talented as. The thing is, talent doesn’t win games. Teamwork wins games. Our kids bought into not being selfish. All year long. There’s not any selfishness on our team. They don’t care who scores. They don’t care who gets all the credit. They just want to win. When you have seven, eight, nine, 10, 12 winners in your program, you’re going to win. They refused to lose. They found a way to win.”
• Q: When you came to Borden, there was almost no team success in its history. What do you think it means to this community to have come so far so fast?
• NASH: “It’s not been all parades. We started from scratch and built it up. We worked our butts off. Mr. Cheatham and Ms. Nale believed in me. They gave me a chance. It’s just a joy to be here.”
• Q: Now, that you’ve had a few minutes, can you try to give it one more try to express what this means to the community, the team and yourself personally?
• NASH: “It’s unbelievable. It’s like I’m living a fantasy or a fairy tale. We talk about all the time about writing our book — and we just wrote the final chapter.”