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How Coleman Scott Went from Head Coach at North Carolina to Associate Head Coach at Oklahoma State

‘This place, it’s a place that I’ve always envisioned and wanted to be in if it was ever a possibility.’



The process simply started with a phone call.

In August, Oklahoma State announced that Coleman Scott was leaving his head coaching job at North Carolina for an associate head coach role at his alma-mater under John Smith.

Scott wrestled for Smith from 2005 to 2008, winning an individual national title as a senior and two team championships as a freshman and sophomore. After a successful international career that included a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympic Games, Scott became a volunteer assistant at OSU for two seasons. He left for UNC for a full-time assistant job in 2014. Just a year later, he was in charge and went on to lead the Tar Heels to the second-best dual winning percentage under a coach in his eight seasons.

“He’s got a level of knowledge you can see as a coach that coached for [eight] years as a head coach,” Smith said. “I see it. There’s definitely a difference there that has really made my job a little bit easier.”

The Scott family was on vacation in Los Angeles to watch baseball games when Smith called with the offer to come back to OSU. Eventually stuck in L.A. traffic for a few hours, Scott turned the music all the way down and started the discussion with his wife and three kids to decide if the move from Chapel Hill to Stillwater was something they should do.

There were pros and cons to weigh — most having nothing to do with wrestling. Scott is originally from Pennsylvania, but Stillwater became home during his time at OSU. His wife is from Oklahoma City, so the state is home for her, as well. But after moving to Chapel Hill nine years ago, it became the only place his kids remember living, as the oldest is 12. That meant friends made and sport interests of their own that may not be available in Stillwater.

“That was a huge part to us is just what’s best for us and our family, not me,” Scott said. “I’m done competing. I’m done doing my thing. It’s not about me. I know what I want to do, but at the end of the day there’s more than me. I wanted to make sure my kids were involved in it. I wanted to make sure my wife was involved in the decision, the talking.”

The rumors of Scott leaving UNC for OSU swirled for nearly a week before an official announcement. With no confirmation from either university, it seemed too unrealistic to report that a coach was leaving a head job at a Power Five program to be an assistant elsewhere — even if it was Scott’s alma-mater with a rich tradition.

“This place, it’s a place that I’ve always envisioned and wanted to be in if it was ever a possibility, and if it wasn’t, I was great,” Scott said. “I was doing good. I was fine where I was. But if it ever came up I knew it’d be a hard thing to pass up.”

A lot of that success and tradition has come under Smith, who, at 58, is on a year-to-year contract and even at the end of last season wasn’t sure about returning to lead the Cowboys for a 32nd season. Bringing in an associate head coach with head coaching success at a major program had many jump to the assumption of successor.

“That’s above my head,” Scott said. “I don’t make those decisions. I’m just here to help Cowboy wrestling and OSU wrestling, and see where we can go. Again, if it’s an opportunity, it’s an opportunity. But I’m in a great place and love what I’m doing, love where I live. That’s what I view it as.”

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