NORMAN — Norman High has a new girls’ basketball coach, and officials didn’t have to look far to find the right fit. In fact, the team’s next leader has already been coaching basketball at NHS for a few years.
Michael Neal, who played basketball at Oklahoma and competed professionally after graduation, has been an assistant coach for the boys’ team for the past two seasons under coach Matt Thornton. Neal will take over as the interim coach for the girls’ squad.
“We feel like with the timing of coach (Nicole) Copeland leaving so late, we wanted to have more time to get a good quality pool of applicants,” district athletic director TD O’Hara said. “Michael brings instant credibility to the table with his knowledge and experience at the collegiate level.”
While Neal may have the interim tag attached to his name, O’Hara is confident that he is a perfect fit for the team next season.
“Michael’s calm demeanor will maximize their potential,” he said. “He just loves the game of basketball. He just wants to coach it and be around it. He’s a gym rat, loves to be in the gym, playing collegiately and professionally overseas.
“It seems like every time I’d go into the gym and see the lights on, more often than not it was him in the gym.”
Neal will take over a team that lost Taylor Ely and Chandler Coale to graduation but that returns a young core of experienced players from a team that regularly played five freshmen.
Monnard adds responsibilities
One of the other open jobs at NHS was that of girls’ cross country coach, and again the Tigers hired from within. Scott Monnard, who has led the boys’ cross country team to a state title and has always been an active part of the training program for both teams, will officially take over as girls’ coach following the retirement of Suzy Rojas.