Drye finished after 17-year run at ACC
Ironically, for someone who loves coaching in the IHSA postseason as much as Nate Drye, it was missing a regional championship game that let him know it was time to step aside.
Drye, the varsity boys basketball coach at Aurora Central Catholic the past 17 seasons, has three children who also love basketball. His oldest, daughter Madison, is a sophomore at Timothy Christian.
Back in February, 2020, on the same night Madison's Trojans were playing for a regional title, Nate was coaching ACC. He missed his daughter's big moment, and he made sure that won't happen again when he resigned as Chargers coach this week.
"I don't want to be a head coach right now because I want the freedom to watch my kids play," Drye said. "I've got a very limited window where I can watch my kids play a high level of basketball. I don't want to miss that. It was entirely a family decision. I don't want to look back and say I was carving out a couple wins here and there and missed this game. It was just time."
Drye prided his ACC teams on playing their best basketball in March. He often would talk about the regular season record not mattering; the season existed to get ready for the tournament.
The best example came in 2011. Just 13-13 in the regular season, the Chargers entered regionals as a No. 3 seed before beating No. 2 Kaneland and No. 1 Rochelle to win the regional. They then defeated No. 1 regional seeds Marian and Rockford East to win the sectional before losing to eventual state champ Rock Island at the NIU supersectional.
The win over Rockford East might be Drye's all-time favorite, an 85-82 overtime thriller.
"That was probably my favorite game because they were very good and we went right at them," Drye said. "Just winning that game and the fight in the kids and overtime and the big crowd, it was just incredible."
Drye was always as colorful as they come in the postgame, never one to mix words while always giving an honest assessment of what he had just seen for 32 minutes. He was at it one more time Wednesday when talking about the thought of coaching against his son in a couple years if Nate would have stayed at ACC.
"There's no way I could ever have coached against my son," Drye said. "I know it's happened for some people but I would be calling the matador defense and getting out of his way so he could put up some points. It would not have been good."
ACC also won regionals in 2008, 2012 and 2015 -- all in 3A which the Chargers were mutiplied up to. Drye's 2008 regional champs also lost to a state champion, Marshall.
"We were punching above our weight and always did a great job," Drye said. "That's what we told the kids is we just want to be ready to go when the postseason starts. We want to make sure we are playing our best ball at the end of the year. Our teams always bought into it. I don't think any of the regionals we won we were the top seed in."
Besides Madison, Drye's daughter Samantha will be a freshman next year at Timothy and his son Dylan will be a seventh-grader.
Nate Drye said he may resurface in coaching in "some much lesser role" when his kids are finished playing.
He'll look back fondly on his 20 years at ACC, which started with three seasons as the sophomore coach.
"I've loved it," said Drye, who finished at 235-234. "I've loved working with the kids. Even in a weird year like this it was a great year to be out with the kids. I love preparing and watching the execution. I love the competition aspect, what can we do to put us in a better position to win and then watching the kids go out there and execute. It's probably my favorite part of coaching."