Nutt seeks win No. 1 at Southeast vs. his former team Arkansas State

Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Dickey Nutt will be looking for his first coaching victory at Southeast Missouri State tonight against Arkansas State, a school he coached at for 20 years. (Fred Lynch)

Human nature might make Dickey Nutt a little emotional tonight as the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team plays its first regular-season home game.

Nutt won't guarantee that isn't going to happen when Arkansas State -- where Nutt was employed for more than 20 years -- visits the Show Me Center, but he's not planning on it.

"I may feel different [tonight], but I don't think one thing about it. It's just another opponent," said Nutt, Southeast's first-year coach. "I was there many, many years, but I have a new program, a new family."

Nutt spent more than two decades in Jonesboro, Ark., first serving eight years as an ASU assistant and then nearly 13 seasons as coach.

Nutt, 189-187 at ASU, is the second-winningest coach in school history and led the program to its only NCAA tournament berth. He was dismissed late during the 2007-08 campaign, did not coach last year and then was hired at Southeast in March.

"I have a lot of very good memories of my time at Arkansas State. I still have a lot of friends, players I recruited," said Nutt, who along with his wife Cathy raised their three children in Jonesboro. "But this is my program now, my family. I'm here for the long term. I want to build something here."

Nutt acknowledged that the matchup with his former team and some players that he brought to ASU is an interesting scenario, but stressed there is no ill-will involved.

"This is not a grudge match," Nutt said. "I have no hard feelings toward Arkansas State at all, in fact I'm very thankful for the privilege of coaching there."

Junior college transfer point guard Anthony Allison, among six Arkansas natives on the Southeast roster, said he knows how much it would mean if the Redhawks could give Nutt his first win against ASU.

"It would mean a lot to him, and a lot to us if we could get him that game," said Allison, from Marianna, Ark. "We feel like he didn't get the respect there he should have gotten."

Allison is looking forward to the game for other reasons.

"I know most of them," Allison said of ASU's players. "I played AAU ball with a lot of them."

Personal feelings aside, Nutt knows his rebuilding Redhawks face another big test tonight after they opened the season Saturday with a 59-41 loss at Saint Louis University.

ASU routed Southeast 86-67 last year in Jonesboro, a defeat that started the Redhawks' 19-game season-ending losing streak that grew to 20 Saturday. It marks the nation's longest current losing streak.

"They've got a very good team," Nutt said. "They might be the biggest team we'll play. They're really big and strong."

John Brady, who previously took LSU to a Final Four, replaced Nutt at ASU. Brady led the Red Wolves to a 13-17 record last year, including a 5-13 Sun Belt Conference mark. ASU lost its final 10 games, five by five points or less.

ASU, picked to finish sixth among seven squads in the Sun Belt West Division after occupying the cellar last season, has a retooled roster with only five returning lettermen.

Senior guard Donald Boone, a preseason all-Sun Belt selection, led ASU with 13.6 points per game last year. The 6-foot-4 Boone also paced the Red Wolves with 54 steals.

JeJuan Brown, a 6-7 senior forward, is ASU's only other returning starter, averaging 7.4 points and 4.8 rebounds.

ASU is 1-0 after routing Division III MacMurray College 93-47 on Monday, but that victory was costly.

Boone left the game after four minutes with what is believed to be a torn ACL. He likely will miss the season.

Guard Trey Finn was forced to sit out the contest with back spasms while point guard Rashad Allison pulled a hamstring in the second half, although both are listed as probable starters for tonight.

Daniel Bryant, a 5-10 sophomore guard, came off the bench Monday to lead ASU with 18 points.

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