The man behind the whistle

Mike Nugent displays his plaque for 22 years of service at Boman High School, left, and his award for officiating at the highest level of Women's Jr. College Basketball from the State of California. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Mike Nugent, a fixture at Bowman High School for 22 years, retired from teaching four years ago — and is now busier than ever.

After 39 years as a prep basketball referee, he still blows the whistle on the court, but he’s replaced teaching with administrative duties in several youth sports leagues and a consulting business to train young officials.

He serves as treasurer and league coordinator for the Santa Clarita Athletic Independent League, which includes Our Lady of Perpetual Help School, Delphi Academy of Los Angeles, Trinity Classical Academy, Santa Clarita Valley International School, Santa Clarita Christian and Concordia.

Nugent has also worked as a basketball official for nearly 20 years for Santa Clarita’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The last five years, he’s worked for Santa Clarita as a consultant training the new generation of officials who start their careers officiating games for younger children. He recently added training officials for the Castaic area to his list of clients.

He also performs administrative duties for the U.S.U. Basketball league which offers three sessions a year to first- through eighth-grade students.

Travel-ball club programs are increasingly popular in youth sports, Nugent said.

“Travel programs have exploded in the last decade for volleyball, soccer and basketball,” he said.

Nugent works with the California Storm youth basketball program and assigns the officials for all the tournaments.

“There are sometimes 80 teams participating, as many as 220 games from Thursday to Sunday, that’s 440 official spots I have to fill,” he said.  

He also has administrative duties to perform for the program.  

New Jersey native

Nugent was born in Patterson, N.J., but moved to Burbank in 1955 (at age 9), with his parents and younger brother and sister.

He is a graduate of Burbank High School and a 1969 graduate of the University of Redlands. He holds a degree in geology with teaching minors in math, science and physical education classes. He played varsity basketball and baseball in high school and in college.

His father worked in sales and his mother was a stay-at-home mom until Nugent entered high school.

“She got a job and worked at a popular store by Burbank City Hall,” he said. “She knew everybody who worked at city hall and they all knew Helen Nugent.”

Mike Nugent displays his plaque for 22 years of service at Boman High School, left, and his award for officiating at the highest level of Women’s Jr. College Basketball from the State of California. Dan Watson/The Signal

Teachers, teachers everywhere

Nugent said he always wanted to be a teacher and had a lifelong appreciation for learning and education.

“I always loved school and I loved my teachers,” he said.

He also credits his paternal grandmother with giving him a head start in education.

“My grandmother was a first- and second-grade teacher, and when my folks would go out on a Friday night, she was my babysitter,” he said. “My grandmother taught me to read and write. I could read and write before I went to school.”

When the family moved to Burbank, he found himself surrounded by teachers.

“The street we moved to in Burbank was literally littered with teachers,” he said. “My next-door neighbor was the football coach at Burbank High and he was my speech teacher my senior year. Across the street was a counselor, down the street was a history teacher, there were about five or six teachers on our block that were teachers either at Burbank High or John Burroughs High School.”

An Educator and Coach

“Teaching came easy and natural to me,” said Nugent.

He found his first job after graduation in 1969 at Rosemont Junior High School in La Crescenta, part of the Glendale Unified School District.

“It was the first year that the school district offered earth science for all seventh-graders, so being a geology major, I got hired,” Nugent said.

He taught at Rosemont for one year before leaving to pursue high school teaching opportunities.

Because of his athletic background he also had an interest in coaching.

“The experience of playing the game and having good coaches was important in my development and helped me want to be a coach,” Nugent said. “I always wanted to be a teacher, but it made me realize that I wanted to be a coach, too.”

He applied for a job at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks that had an opening for a boys basketball coach and a math teacher, and he was hired.  

Nugent also spent five years teaching math and coaching basketball at John Burroughs High School in Burbank.

Mike Nugent. Dan Watson/The Signal

Officiating

Baseball was Nugent’s favorite sport, and he started his officiating career by being an umpire for Burbank Parks and Recreation Department.

“However, once I started teaching, I realized that to officiate a baseball game you had to get off work early, because high school baseball games are played in the early afternoon; and when you’re teaching until 3 p.m., you can’t do that,” he said.

Nugent joined the CIF basketball unit in 1980.

“I’ve been a CIF official for 39 years,” he said.

He has officiated 25 consecutive years in the high school playoffs and from 1993-2013 Nugent was a women’s college basketball official.  

The highlight of his officiating career occurred in 2006, when he was one of only six Southern California officials chosen to work the Women’s Junior College State Championships held in Fresno.  

“I’ve also taught and mentored probably 50-60 high school basketball officials during my 39 years,” he said. “It’s something I enjoy, training young officials.”

Moving to the SCV

Nugent’s short first marriage produced two daughters. After his second daughter was born, he decided he needed a job that made more money. He took a sabbatical from teaching and took a job as an administrative assistant working with engineers.

He met his second wife, Judi, during that time, and the couple were married in 1978. They then moved to Valencia, where they still live.

“I was the first president of the Valencia Lakeshore Condos homeowners association,” he said.

The couple have three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In 1990, he returned to teaching with a one-year stint at Canyon High. He was hired as the girls basketball coach and worked as a substitute at Canyon.

After landing a full-time teaching job at Bowman High School, he remained the Canyon High Girls Basketball coach for three years.

Nugent wore many hats at Bowman, which is the William S. Hart Union High School District’s continuation high school. He taught math, science, health and PE, life-management class (five years) and served as the school’s ASB director (nine years) and work experience coordinator (17 years).

In 2003, he was named the Hart District Teacher of the Year.

Bowman booster

Nugent speaks fondly of his years at Bowman and is the school’s biggest booster. He can recount success story after success story of Bowman students.

“I love Bowman, I love Bowman, I love Bowman,” he said. “It is special to teach at Bowman. I still have many students who contact me, or see me, and they give me a hug and thank me.”

Nugent points to the successful food drive held at Bowman each year as a point of Bowman pride.

“We brought in more food per student than any other school in the district,” he said.

Nugent’s efforts at Bowman include instituting Career Day and as ASB director, a blood drive.

He also helped organize the first Bowman High reunion, “held about 15 years ago.”  

Nugent said Bowman has a unique culture and atmosphere.

“The connection between students and teachers is unusual and positive,” he said.

As the work experience coordinator, Nugent arranged for the military ASVAB test that measures a young adult’s strengths, weaknesses and potential for future success to be held at Bowman.

“Many of the students were interested in the military but had no way to get downtown to take the test,” he said. “Some of the highest scores in the district came from Bowman students.”

Nugent said one student became an Air Force pilot and recently was promoted to a training pilot.

“I have many stories that make us proud at Bowman of how we opened up possibilities for these students,” he said.

On Oct. 13, 2017, Nugent returned to Bowman to serve as Principal for a Day, the 25th anniversary of the Principal for a Day fundraiser held by the SCV Education Foundation.

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