It was famed American novelist Thomas Wolfe who wrote the book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
Nick Marsh, for one, would beg to differ.
Marsh, who was a member of Batavia’s boys basketball teams that captured back-to-back Class AA regional championships in 1996 and 1997, always tried to help former Bulldogs coach Jim Roberts any way he could once his playing days were finished.
“Sometimes I’d talk with some of the players and play against them in open gym if Coach Roberts asked me to help out,” said Marsh.
Perhaps his continued involvement with the basketball program was one of the main reasons why Marsh was asked by Bulldogs head football coach Dennis Piron this past summer to serve on a panel to interview candidates for the then-vacant position as head basketball coach following Roberts’ resignation.
“At the time, Coach Piron told me he was putting together a panel to interview the top three candidates and that I would serve as part of the alumni,” recalled Marsh.
“I went in and gave my opinion, and then they brought back the top two candidates.”
Marsh, who works as a vice president for All-Star Sports Instruction, Inc., learned a few days later that Batavia resident Jim Nazos had been selected as the Bulldogs’ next head basketball coach.
“That night, I taught a T-ball class that Jim’s son was attending,” said Marsh. “After class, I congratulated Jim’s wife and she mentioned to me that Jim wanted my phone number.
“I figured he probably wanted to me ask a few more questions about our traditions,” added Marsh.
The next morning, Nazos did phone Marsh but he only had one question to be answered.
“He offered me a job as his varsity assistant,” said Marsh. “I was floored. My first thought was whether it was going to be feasible due to my job.”
After receiving the OK from his boss, Marsh willingly accepted the offer to join Nazos’ coaching staff.
“I’ve been thinking about it the last few years,” admitted Marsh. “It was something I wanted to do but it was more of a dream. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do it.”
Marsh joined another newcomer, former Downers Grove North standout/current Batavia resident Drew Carstens, on Nazos’ coaching staff alongside longtime assistants Anthony Williams and Ryan Sullivan.
“When I got the job, two of the guys I thought of first were Drew and Nick,” said Nazos, who had coached at Wheaton North for 12 seasons. “I knew Drew through one of his best friends and one of my former players, Jim Thomas. And I knew Nick through his work with All-Star Sports. He had taught my own kids through the Batavia Park District.
“I knew right away that he was great with kids and that he was passionate about Batavia basketball,” added Nazos. “He played in the same gym and a lot of our players grew up knowing him.”
Playing alongside teammates Steve Schafer, Brandon Schwab, Jay Kramer, Ben Zagorski, Ryan Kochen, among others, Marsh and the Bulldogs experienced a great deal of success during the mid-1990s.
“We made it to the sectional finals both my junior and senior years,” said Marsh.
During his senior season, the Bulldogs advanced to the Naperville Central sectional title game against nemesis West Aurora with a hard-fought, 72-63 semifinal victory over an East Aurora squad that featured future NCAA All-American Aaron McGhee.
“I remember having to guard McGhee,” said Marsh. “What a lot of people didn’t know was that I had just spent a few days in the hospital with viral meningitis and had lost 10 pounds. At the time, I stood 6-4 and weighed 160 pounds. I probably gave up at least 60 pounds to him (McGhee).”
Batavia wound up being eliminated by West Aurora, which went on to finish second in the state.
“Our group was blessed with some great athletes,” recalled Marsh. “All five of our starters were named to the all-conference team. But it wasn’t just our top five. We would get after each other at practice.
“I remember Coach Roberts saying, ‘bring out the Samurai’s,’ and the second team would foul the stuffing out of us. We had to learn to play through it.”
Batavia’s teams of the mid-1990s were known for their full-court press and run-and-gun styles.
“We pressed all game long,” said Marsh, who went on to play at Aurora University before transferring to North Central. “We scored in the 70s, 80s, and 90s most of our games.”
Today, Marsh realizes the importance that tradition plays at Batavia.
“It is special to have played at Batavia,” said Marsh. “We’re a program that goes way back. Our alumni support is second to none.
“At our first game a few weeks ago (against Kaneland), one of our longtime fans knew who I was right away and came up and talked to me,” added Marsh.
While listing team camaraderie and bus rides to away games as some of his favorite high school memories, Marsh also has fond thoughts of his former coach.
“I owe Coach Roberts a ton,” said Marsh. “I was one of those kids on the borderline of good and bad as a freshman when Coach Roberts got a hold of me and took me under his wing. He taught me about always doing things the right way and working hard for what I wanted.”
Now 34, Marsh is still a student of sorts at Batavia High School.
“I’ve already learned a lot from Coach Nazos,” said Marsh, who usually works with power forwards and post players during practice sessions while handling second-day scouting duties of future opponents.
“He’s got a ridiculous work ethic,” added Marsh, who also gets to coach JV games. “He (Nazos) lets me go a little bit. I’m kind of a coach-in-training.”
With the implementation of a new offense and defense, Marsh realizes the importance of patience.
“It’s a major overhaul and change in how Batavia will be offensively and defensively,” said Marsh. “It’s completely new to the players and it’s going to take time. We’re not there yet but what we’re doing works. We’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Nazos is happy to have both Marsh and Carstens on his side.
“It has really worked out well,” said Nazos. “They have been better than I thought they’d be, and I knew they’d be really good.”
Marsh, who married his high school sweetheart and lives in Batavia with their 2 kids, feels right at home in the Bulldogs’ gym.
“It’s definitely a learning curve,” Marsh said of coaching, “but it’s a big honor to be able to come back and be a part of Batavia basketball in this way.”
You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.comCopyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.