Marvin King could always count on Nelson Haggerty to get him the ball in just the right spot during their time playing basketball at Willowridge High School.
Memories of those days came flooding back for King on Saturday when Haggerty’s family, friends and members of the college basketball community filled First Baptist Church to remember the former North Texas assistant.
Haggerty, a former Baylor standout who went on to coach at the college level for more than 20 years, died last week at the age of 47 in a car accident.
“Never Nervous Nel. He was the consummate point guard,” King recalled.
Haggerty’s last stop in coaching came at UNT, where he worked under Grant McCasland, one of his closest friends. McCasland added Haggerty to his staff in 2019. He spent last season as UNT’s director of basketball strategy and operations and credited him with playing a key role in a historic season for the Mean Green.
UNT won the conference USA tournament and went on to knock off Purdue for its first win in the NCAA tournament in program history this spring.
“When you are around someone you trust with everything, not just with basketball, but also with your friendship, family and life and he is also one of the greatest players and coaches you know, it shows that his impact was tremendous,” McCasland said. “The part that I will miss the most, though, is our friendship and our times together.”
McCasland and King were just two of 11 people who spoke Saturday about the impact Nelson made both on the court and in the lives of the players and coaches he worked with through years.
While Haggerty’s time at UNT was short, McCasland and his players said he left a significant mark. He took care of the logistical issues of travel and practice behind the scenes and was also a steady presence for UNT’s players.
“He was the rock of our program,” UNT guard JJ Murray said. “His calm and competitive demeanor rubbed off on us.”
The stops Haggerty made while developing those traits were memorialized at the service. His No. 12 Baylor jersey, a photo of him cutting down a net from his tenure as the coach at Midwestern State, and a photo of him talking to UNT point guard Javion Hamlet during the Mean Green’s historic season this year were all prominently displayed.
A resolution honoring Haggerty from the Baylor Black Alumni Alliance was read before his former players and college coaches were asked to raise their hands. More than two dozen former players and more than 10 coaches were in attendance.
Aundre Branch, one of Haggerty’s former Baylor teammates, recalled how he connected with people.
“He always invested in the people around him,” Branch said.
That trait translated to the court, where he became one of the best playmakers in Baylor history.
Haggerty played for the Bears from 1991-95 and is Baylor’s all-time leader in assists with 699. He averaged a school record 10.14 assists per game in the 1994-95 season.
Among the coaches who attended the service, Kim Anderson recalled how Haggerty’s traits as a player translated when he went into coaching. Anderson, who worked with Haggerty at Central Missouri, said he knew how to win games, but that wasn’t the trait he remembered most about him.
“Every coach loved him,” Anderson said. “He was one of the most loyal people I know.”
Haggerty spent eight years of his coaching career at Midwestern State and led the Mustangs to the Elite Eight twice and was named the Lone Star Conference Coach of the Year twice.
Two of Haggerty’s former Midwestern colleagues spoke, including Tres Seigler, who recalled the way he connected with people.
“I will never forget how Nelson saw the best in everyone,” Seigler said.
Reagan Foster recalled Haggerty’s dedication to his players.
That dedication was one of the reasons McCasland added Haggerty to his staff.
He grew up watching Haggerty play for Baylor and ended up wearing No. 12 for the Bears, the same number as his friend.
McCasland said he’s spent a lot of time crying over the last week.
“I’m always going to be thankful for Nelson Haggerty,” McCasland said. “What a blessing he has been for all of us.”