ENID, Okla. — Nina (pronounced nigh-na) Gregory can’t wait to start her new job as the Enid Pacers head basketball coach.
“If I could get started today, and move out, and just get my life started and go,” she said. “I would.”
On Monday night, Gregory was officially hired as the Pacers head coach, her first coaching position at the high school level. She won’t be able to get started with her new team until the second week of July. Until then, she will drive up from Oklahoma City once or twice in the coming weeks to meet with her new players.
Gregory, a Clovis, Calif., native takes over an Enid Pacer team that finished 8-16 this past season. She also will teach ninth grade physical science.
“I’m really excited about the opportunity,” Gregory said.
Enid Athletic Director Billy Tipps said Gregory fit into what the school was looking for as far as enthusiasm and energy.
“She was very excited for the feel of Enid,” he said.
Since her playing days at Southwestern Oklahoma State ended, Gregory’s wanted the opportunity to be a basketball coach. It’s an opportunity that comes after two seasons of working with SWOSU’s coaching staff, first as a volunteer and then as a graduate assistant. Gregory also has experience coaching AAU basketball.
The first step in her young career, however, will be a big one as she takes over a Class 6A program.
“I realize this is a big opportunity that’s been put on my plate," she said.
Tipps said Gregory impressed with her plans to build the middle school, elementary and youth programs, as well as her career at SWOSU, both as a player and a coach under head coach Kelsi Musick.
Gregory’s former boss believes the former Lady Bulldog will do a great job as the Pacers head coach.
“This is what she wants to do,” Musick said. "She’s passionate about it and it’s hard to find someone to coach in this day and age that’s as extremely passionate as she is. I think that alone is going to help her do a great job.”
After she finished playing at SWOSU, Gregory spent two years learning under Musick and gained a different perspective of what a coach’s life is like — early mornings, late nights, scouting reports, team laundry, NCAA paperwork.
“Being on the other side of things, it changed my relationship with them and it changed how I saw things,” Gregory said.
It also gave her experience being a part of a national championship contending team. During this past season as a grad assistant, the Lady Bulldogs made it to the Division II national title game, where SWOSU lost, 95-85, in double-overtime to Lubbock Christian University (Texas).
“Win or lose that game, the experience of getting there, you learn a lot of things that a lot of people won’t have,” Tipps said.
To be considered for a head coaching position so early in Gregory’s career is “an honor,” Musick said.
“That’s how I felt when I came and interviewed for the SWOSU job,” she said. “A lot of people said, ‘Oh, you’re too young, you’re probably not going to get it.’ But I told her, this is her opportunity.”
It’s an opportunity that came about by coincidence, Gregory said. After the 2018-2019 season ended, Gregory moved to Oklahoma City to stay with a friend while she looked for her next job. She hoped to stay at the collegiate level, but she couldn’t find the right fit.
Then, Chelsea Bates, a friend and former Northern Oklahoma College Enid basketball player, reached out to NOC Enid head coach Scott Morris to see if he knew of any coaching opportunities.
He did, right down the road from NOC Enid’s campus.
Gregory can expect a warm welcome from the Enid community, something Tipps, who was hired out of Kansas in December, can attest to. The athletic director said he’s already received calls from basketball parents and community members, informing him that if Gregory needs anything to let them know.
“We will all pitch in," he said. "You don’t win alone. A head coach is only as good as the people around them. The AD is only as good as his coaches and his community … we’re only as good as the people that we surround ourselves with."
Gregory plans to bring the run-and-gun system to Enid, something she’s known since high school and during her time at SWOSU. But she also plans to bring experience in building relationships built on trust and family, something she learned from Musick and SWOSU.
“One of the reasons that I came to SWOSU in the first place was because of the family environment they had built,” she said. “They’ve taught me a lot about building relationships with players. At the end of the day, it’s more than just basketball. It’s about teaching these young ladies to be young women. As much as basketball is a huge part of it, there’s so much more outside of it.”