Nate Wright stepped into a favorable situation as Marengo’s boys basketball coach in 2015 and helped the Indians reestablish their winning tradition.
But four winter seasons as athletic director and coach became a lot to handle and Wright, the last area AD to also hold a coaching position, is stepping down as coach.
Wright told all the players in Marengo’s program on Wednesday that he is resigning his position. The Indians had two winning season in the 14 years before Wright took over and recorded eight winning seasons under him.
Wright resigns with a 155-68 record, two regional titles and one sectional championship. He and his wife Brooke have three children – son Chaz (11), son Tucker (7) and daughter McCartney (4) – who are becoming more involved with activities, which was an important consideration with Wright making the decision.
“They’re starting to get into stuff and me being athletic director and basketball coach is taking a lot of time away,” Wright said. “I feel like I’m putting 50% of time in everywhere else and I feel like it’s time to kind of move on.
“I’m still going to be AD and helping out when I can, but as far as being head coach, I think it’s time to resign and say, ‘It’s not going to be me,’ and find that next person to take over the program and go from there.”
Wright was an assistant coach under Will Benson in 2014, when the Indians were 20-11 before Benson left to take the job at Huntley. Wright’s first team finished 27-6 and lost to Rockford Lutheran in a Class 3A sectional championship. Guard Zach Knobloch established an IHSA record for 3-pointers that season with 167.
Two years later, guard Michael Volkening led the Indians to a 25-8 record and a 3A sectional title. They lost to Bloomington in the supersectional.
“I got very lucky when I stepped into the situation when coach [Will] Benson left and went over to Huntley,” Wright said. “Him coming in renewed my passion for basketball. Marengo has a long basketball history and kind of being a part of that restart of that passion in Marengo has been great. I’m not taking credit for it. [Former coach] Chad Olson started a youth program we’ve benefitted greatly from and coach [Dave] Pettit and coach Benson worked through those years.
“I feel lucky I got to reap the benefits of some of those things and work with some of those guys who came through that program. I was happy to be a part of things and get the basketball passion going a little bit again in Marengo. We were able to win [a regional] my first year and it felt like we could build on that success.”
Knobloch set the Marengo career scoring record at 1,815, while Michael Volkening set the season mark with 836 in 2017. Senior Matthew Volkening, the youngest of four brothers, would have broken Knobloch’s career record if the COVID-19 pandemic had not shortened the 2021 season by more than half.
“I’ve had some great players,” Wright said. “It’s been kind of cool with the groups of families that have come through and I coached multiple kids of the family.
“We’ve had some awesome success and had a chance to play in a supersectional game at NIU and experience that on a college court. The families and the kids of Marengo have been so supportive with all of the things they do. To be a part of that has been really awesome. Families in Marengo have made it really easy on me. They have great kids, they are super-supportive of the basketball program and they’ve been involved. You can’t ask any more as a basketball coach than that.”
Wright plans on taking classes to further his administrative degree. He wants to do more work with Marengo’s Athletic Hall of Fame and with fundraising.
“Something has to give,” he said. “I can’t be good at home and good at my job and good at basketball. There’s only so many hours in the day. I’ve been hemming and hawing a couple of years.
“Brooke has really been the rock at home that has allowed me to keep coaching all these years. She has been a great support and I’m excited to have some time to return the favor.”