It’s been a big year for Nick McDevitt ’01. The new Bulldogs head men’s basketball coach earned that position last April. He did that while leading the team after former coach Eddie Biedenbach resigned after 19 years. And oh yes, he also got married. He will quickly tell you that getting married is the most important thing that’s happened in his life so far this year—and that’s indicative of his core values.
For Coach McDevitt, faith and family come first, but make no mistake, this coach will win many games—he’s got his eye set on another Big South Conference championship. However, he’s equally focused on helping his young men grow and learn.
“To me, our biggest win comes on graduation day, seeing our seniors get their degrees,” he said. “As important, we want to foster all our team members, helping them mature into fine men through the game of basketball.”
He knows that process well, having started as a student-athlete at UNC Asheville before graduating into his coaching role.
Practice and Progress
Director of Athletics Janet Cone has known McDevitt for many years. When she was coaching basketball at Mars
Hill College, she watched his progress as a high school athlete, and as a UNC Asheville basketball team member.
“He is a man of great integrity, with a great, supportive family,” she explained. “As a servant leader he does what he needs to help others. When he speaks publicly, he begins by talking about the university, then the athletics department, the men’s basketball program, and then, reluctantly, himself. It’s never about him, it’s about us, the university.”
Longtime UNC Asheville Associate Athletics Director Mike Gore also has known McDevitt many years. He remembers being one of McDevitt’s camp counselors at the UNC Asheville basketball camp.
“It’s been fun watching Nick grow into this job,” he said. “He was always well mannered and classy, and he still is. A lot of people have dream jobs, and this is his dream, the job he wanted. It’s nice to see it work out.”
Coach McDevitt grew up in Marshall, N.C., only 30 minutes from Asheville. He played basketball, baseball and football until high school when basketball became his focus. He had a lot of family help— from his dad, Wayne McDevitt (former chief of staff for Gov. James B. Hunt), to his uncle Ricky McDevitt, who coached the girl’s varsity team at Madison County High School at that time.
“My dad was with me all the way from youth-league basketball from age 5–13, coaching and mentoring me, and Uncle Ricky helped me a lot too. I think my whole family knew I had a career in sports because I could calculate point differentials as a very young kid, before I could even do math!”
Family ties to UNC Asheville run deep in the McDevitt family. Nick’s father, uncle and sister are all alumni. His parents dated in high school; some of their dates included basketball games at the university’s Justice Center. His grandfather helped install some of the plumbing in Governors Residence Hall. And of course, Nick is a graduate himself, the first alumnus to hold the men’s basketball
head coaching position.
“A lot of people have dream jobs, and this is his dream, the job he wanted. It’s nice to see it work out.”—Mike Gore, Associate Athletics Director
He attended UNC Asheville on an academic and athletic scholarship and majored in history. He knew he wanted to be a basketball coach, but he thought he would graduate and teach high school history, earning a spot as a high school basketball coach and eventually working his way into a college coaching job. His plans were jump started when Biedenbach hired him at age 22, straight out of college.
“I was in the right place at the right time,” he recalled. “An assistant coach left as I was graduating, and I was fortunate to be hired.”
An Educational Approach
McDevitt spent 12 years as an assistant and associate basketball coach before assuming the head coaching position this year. He says Biedenbach mentored him, teaching him the business and nuances of the game.
“Coach Biedenbach gave me an invaluable piece of advice after I got the head coach job,” he remembered. “He said to always ask myself if my decisions were in the best interest of the players and to listen to my heart.”
He credits his training as a teacher at UNC Asheville for helping him stay ahead of the curve.
“Training as a teacher helps me teach the game. I still use the methods and techniques I learned in my education classes,” he said.
Senior Jaron Lane tells a story that demonstrates McDevitt’s unique approach to the game.
“When I was red shirted last year due to injuries, he came to me. I was so discouraged, and he told me to focus on getting better,” he recalled. “He said not to think about it as a bad thing but to deal with it as a man and a person. That really opened my eyes, and I appreciated his kindness.”
The Past and Present
Although McDevitt coached men’s basketball for a dozen years, his appointment as head coach was not a given when the former coach left. Cone explained that a search committee conducted a rigorous search, interviewing many candidates both on and off campus. She said the entire search committee agreed that McDevitt distinguished himself.
“He had been preparing for a long time to be head coach, and he was ready,” she said. “He had his own vision, taking the best from the past but bringing a new, creative touch to the program.”