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Neyens returning as Nevis girls head basketball coach

Brad Neyens will continue as head girls basketball coach at Nevis School following school board approval at the June 25 meeting. It is a position he has held for two years, but that was in jeopardy when an item calling for the non-renewal of Nye's coaching contract was placed on the agenda.

Seven audience members sat with Neyens, who asked to address the board, as did Nevis resident Don DeLisi who has two granddaughters in the program.

"I'd like to thank my supporters who are here tonight," Neyens said. "I appreciate that."

He highlighted the team's accomplishment while he was coaching, including a JV team taking second with mostly 7th and 8th graders on the team.

"I've brought in camps, started a summer league, have five players that just got done playing American Athletic Union basketball and am coaching fourth graders who qualified for the state tournament," he said.

Neyens said his athletic director told him both he and the team had improved. "He also told me I have done more with the girls' basketball program than anyone else has in years," he said. "Many parents and grandparents have gotten behind this team. We have had five or six coaches in the last 10-12 years and that is not a recipe for success."

Neyens said many of the girls have told him he is the only coach they have had for two years in a row.

"They have a long-term commitment from me," he said. "I think we are on the right path, and I want to see this thing through. I care about this program and want to coach basketball. I have poured my heart and soul into this program and feel like now it's finally headed in the right direction the school wants to get rid of me. I've been given no reason as to why. Maybe they don't need to. But this is not the way you handle your coaches. I told my girls that I would fight for my job, and that is why I'm here tonight."

Neyens read two letters he received from students. The first thanked him for "being a great coach and pushing them to meet their goals." The second letter was from a student who dedicated a game to him "because you've never given up on me. You've always had faith in me. Throughout my basketball career, I've never had a coach that stuck with the program and cared about the kids as much as you. You've given me so many new opportunities to learn skills and I'm really thankful I have another year with you as a coach."

"I want to be here," Neyens said. "I've accepted the teaching part of it (not being renewed). I want to coach and to be given a chance to see this thing through."

"Here's a man who really cares about these kids," Delisi said. "He's teaching them and he's committed to them and he's committed to this program. These young ladies deserve to have a coach that cares about them and to be able to go out and compete at a higher level. That's what I want for my granddaughters. I want them to have fun, maybe get to a tournament. Every kid dreams of going to the state tournament. Are we thinking about the kids? He's brought these young ladies a long ways in two years. He's turning this program around. He invites them over to his house for Christmas. He takes them to the Dairy Queen and pays for it out of his own pocket. He's willing to put the effort and extra time in. But we want to fire him. Is that what we do to good people? Is that the kind of community we want here, to kick people out of town? I'm very disappointed in this administration."

Board member Larry Smith moved to approve the non-renewal of Neyens' coaching contract, but the motion died due to lack of a second. "What are your wishes?" Smith asked the board.

"I am in favor of giving Brad a shot," board member Andy Lindow said. "We want to move the program in the right direction. I've talked to Brad; I've talked to others. He's made improvements in the areas he was asked to and he is committed to the program. If a guy's making progress, and I don't care if it's a staff member or a coach, if they're growing and making changes in a positive manner, that's a good thing."

Lindow said that while he has "fielded a few complaints" from parents, he doesn't know a single coach who made everybody happy.

"I also want to see from my position on the board that we give our staff the tools that they need to succeed," he said. "I don't know if Brad was given that."

Lindow explained that as new teachers get more frequent evaluation and mentoring, "he maybe could have gotten a little more assistance. That's my position, and that's why I'm not seconding that motion," he said.

Smith asked, "So again, what are the wishes of the board?"

Lindow made a motion to approve Neyens continue as head girls basketball coach for the next school year. Board member Maggie Stacey seconded the motion.

When asked if there was any further discussion, board member Justin Isaacson said this has been a really tough thing for him to deal with.

"I have two daughters that are coached by Brad and I think he's done a really good job," he said. "He's committed, he's passionate, he wants to stick with the program. I don't like going against the administration, because we're paying them to do a job and I would like to believe they're doing the best job they can, but I'm not going to get caught in the middle of this. He hasn't done anything to warrant a termination. I'm going to abstain from the decision because I'm right in the middle of it and I don't like it. You guys can figure it out for yourselves. I think we have a guy who wants to make this program succeed and I want to give him a chance."

Superintendent Gregg Parks suggested the board caucus for a few minutes on the issue.

Smith said "Before we do that, it is the job of the administration to review the employees in the district. It is our job to trust the decision that they make because that is what we hire them to do. But due to these circumstances we need to caucus so we'll call a recess for five minutes."

After the closed session, Parks explained that due to only four board members in attendance at the time Isaacson talked about abstaining they wouldn't have been able to vote because they wouldn't have had a quorum. "Right at that time, Gary shows up," he said.

Isaacson said they discussed amending the motion on the floor to include a performance evaluation after a year and renewing the coaching contract. He made that motion.

"We would extend the contract for coaching for one year with a performance improvement plan and (athletic director) Bryan Wormley would be administering that," he said.

The amended motion was approved.

When the vote was called, four of the board members (Isaacson, Stacey, Lindow and Gary Stennes) were in favor of extending Neyens' contract for another year, with Smith casting the only "no" vote.

"Congratulations," Smith said. "We will look for better things. Thank you for your commitment."