It wasn’t exactly the Boston Tea Party, but Steve Nugent once was a rebel with a cause: soccer.
The youngest of eight children, Nugent was raised in a Boston family that embraced the American traditions of football, basketball and baseball.
“I think I was trying to rebel against what my dad wanted, because he didn’t understand soccer,” said Nugent, who has taken his crusade all the way to Pullman: Last week he was named as the head soccer coach at Washington State.
However, Nugent said he doesn’t plan anything revolutionary as he takes over what is arguably the school’s most successful program in recent years.
“I don’t think it needs any modification, just perfecting,” the 42-year-old Nugent said of a program that’s reached the NCAA playoffs in five of the last six seasons.
Nugent replaces Keidane McAlpine, who left in December to take over at Southern California.
During the interview process and again this week, Nugent said he was impressed by the school’s family atmosphere.
“Everyone made me feel right at home,” said Nugent, who last year won a Southern Conference title in his third year as head coach at North Carolina Greensboro.
This week, Nugent spent most of the week getting acquainted with the returning Cougars players.
“It was almost like speed-dating, where we’d spent a few minutes with one group, then another,” Nugent said.
During that time Nugent explained his coaching strategy, which he said resembles McAlpine’s attacking style.
“We want to attack and make other teams chase us, and we want teams to hate it for 90 minutes,” Nugent said. “I was joking with our goalkeepers that I don’t mind winning 4-3.”
While in Pullman, Nugent also put the finishing touches on his first recruiting class. The Cougars signed six high school players to national letters of intent.
Nugent said he’s also excited about the other big change coming to WSU soccer: a modern facility, complete with permanent covered stands, a media facility and a grand entrance that will include a concession stand, a new scoreboard and lights.
The project will move in two phases. The grandstand and the lights will come first, due for completion this summer. The rest will follow next year.
Nugent said he’s looking forward to seeing the Cougars play under the lights for the first time in Pullman.
Nugent is the sixth head coach in program history. A 1996 graduate of Florida Atlantic, Nugent was a volunteer assistant at Lynn and helped the Fighting Panthers capture 1994 and 1995 NAIA national championships and a runner-up finish in the 1996 NCAA Division II Championship.
He was an assistant coach at Rice (2001) and Georgia (2008-11) prior to becoming the UNCG head coach. The Bulldogs reached the NCAA postseason in 2008 and 2009. In addition, he won 15 state championships and mentored nine full national team players during his time as a club coach (1989-2000, 2002-08).
Athletic director Bill Moos said he’s “confident that Steve Nugent is the ideal choice to maintain one of the premier women’s soccer programs in the Pac-12.”
Assistants named: Sandy Davison and Jon Harvey have been named Cougars assistant coaches, Nugent said Thursday.
Both were assistants to Nugent at UNCG. Davison worked with the Spartans in 2011 and Harvey coached last season in Greensboro.
Letters of intent: Cheney High soccer players Micah Weller and Trevan Estrellado signed letters of intent to attend Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Wash. They join seven other boys players and 19 girls from local schools who signed letters of intent this week.