Jun. 21—There was a time, early in his career at North Andover High, that Steve Nugent dreamed of becoming an athletic director. But, in recent years, he hadn't thought much of it.
"I love sports and I love North Andover," said Nugent. "So I thought athletic director seemed like a great job. But between coaching and my work in guidance, I hadn't really thought about it for the past decade or so. When I found out the job opened about a month ago, though, I saw this as an opportunity."
The man who has helped build the Scarlet Knights into one of the state's premier track programs and leads the school's guidance department made the most of that opportunity.
Nugent has been hired as the new athletic director for North Andover High, the school officially announced on Saturday.
He beat out approximately 75 applicants to replace Laura Habacker, who stepped down after four years.
"I'm very excited," said Nugent. "I'm looking forward to an awesome new challenge. I see this as my chance to make an impact on what goes on in every sport in North Andover, kindergarten through high school. I want to be the athletic director for the whole community.
"Being a North Andover guy, I wanted to make sure we had quality candidates for the job. I grew up here, I coach here, I feel like North Andover is such a unique place that I love. I wanted a say in who the next person was going to be. Something inside of me told me I should consider the job."
The 52-year-old Nugent has spent a lifetime dedicated to North Andover and Scarlet Knights athletics.
Nugent grew up in North Andover, and played soccer and ran track — specializing in sprints and jumps — at North Andover High (class of 1987).
After graduating from Saint Anselm College in 1991, he was immediately hired as freshman boys soccer coach for the Scarlet Knights under Bill Tarbox.
Nugent became North Andover's head boys spring track coach in 2002, and in 2011 became the boys indoor track coach. He owns a combined 177-39-1 record, and his Knights won the Division 2 relays and Merrimack Valley Conference Meet titles this spring.
Since 1998, Nugent has worked in the guidance department at North Andover High, currently serving as guidance director.
"I've been a guidance counselor my entire professional life," he said. "The guidance team is like a family. Even thought I'm only moving down the hall, I still have mixed emotions, But I saw it as, I'm 52-years-old and I probably have about 10 years left. Maybe it's a midlife crisis, but I saw this as a chance to make an impact community-wide."
Nugent said he is looking forward to working a variety of sports and coaches.
"We have an amazing group of student-athletes, coaches and parents in North Andover," he said. "For me, it will be getting to know everybody involved in different sports. I've been heavily involved in track and coached soccer, but sports like lacrosse and hockey and field hockey and others I have to better understand. I want communication to be strong. And I will be reaching out to the youth programs."
As for whether he will continue to coach track, he has not made a final decision.
"I have to put a lot of thought into that this summer," he said. "Coaching is part of my DNA. It makes me tick. It energizes me. I've talked to a bunch of athletic directors. If I have to step down, it will be a very tough decision, but whatever I do will be best for the kids and the program."
FAMILY OF SCARLET KNIGHTS
New North Andover athletic director and accomplished track coach Steve Nugent isn't the only Scarlet Knight in the family.
His wife, Courtney (Seed), grew up in town and teaches sixth grade in North Andover. His daughter Molly just graduated from North Andover High, daughter Maggie will be a junior and son Patrick will be a freshman. All three are track athletes.