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Saturday, Apr. 25, 2015

Igel will miss his right-hand man

Posted Wednesday, July 22, 2009, at 6:31 PM

Former Eastern Greene junior varsity boys basketball coach Mark McNeal (left) is shown with Eastern Greene varsity coach Andy Igel in the team photo after the Thunderbirds won the Class 2A North Knox Sectional and Crawford County Regional. Neal resigned after 13 seasons of working with Igel. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
LITTLE CINCINNATI -- Andy Igel has become a fixture at Eastern Greene High School. During the past 13 seasons, Igel had guided the fortunes of the Thunderbird boys basketball program, winning three sectionals and one regional.

Along every step of the way was assistant coach Mark McNeal, who was in charge of the junior-varsity team.

"Mark was the first person I hired when I was named coach at Eastern," said Igel. "Needless to say we go back a long way."

But McNeal, who lays carpet for a living when not coaching basketball, will not have as much time any more to devote to coaching and resigned in May.

"It was one of the hardest things that I ever had to hear," Igel said of his conversation with McNeal. "I know that he is doing what is best for himself.

"Other than working in the carpet business, he has other things that he does outside of basketball. People come and go in this business. That is a part of it. You can fill a position but you can't replace somebody like Mark."

Igel said that he attended a clinic in Connersville several years ago, hosted by coach Basil Mawbey, and learned a very valuable lesson that relates to McNeal.

"He said that one of the most important things as a coach is to surround yourself with great people," said Igel, who has a 183-111 record in his 13 seasons at EGHS. "Having somebody like Mark around has made me a better coach and more importantly a better person."

Igel said that McNeal was the one individual he always consulted before making any decisions about Eastern Greene basketball.

"He was the guy that that helped me make decisions," said Igel. "I always wanted to hear from Mark because he would tell me the truth.

"He really was great at preparing young men to get ready to play varsity basketball."

Igel said that his players have always been known for giving it their all, and that a lot of that started with Mark.

"When people talk about our program, they mostly say that our kids play hard and with toughness," Igel said. "Mark had a lot to do with that."

He added that you need a little levity during the course of a long season, and that McNeal was just the man to provide it.

"Probably one of the neatest things about Mark is his sense of humor," said Igel, whose 2001 team went 23-2 and advanced to the Class 2A Semistate. "You have a lot of tense and serious moments during the course of the season.

"Coach would always find a way to put a different spin on things. He would always make us laugh at the time we needed it most. It could be during a bus ride or anywhere. It is hard to pinpoint those special moments."

Igel said that it won't be the same.

"I will miss him," said Igel. "The program will continue to move forward and we are very excited about the future.

"But it will be very different without Mark. You can't really replace people like Mark. We still talk about once a month or so. He called me the other day and said, 'Why haven't you called me.' We will continue to be friends."

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at hargisbj@yahoo.com or at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12.

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