Neal leaving Summit High for Golden
summit daily news
FARMER’S KORNER ” The Summit High School girls basketball team lost its coach Wednesday when Jeff Neal handed in his resignation.
Neal, who led the Tigers to a 35-16 record and three wins in the state tournament during his two-year stint as head coach, has accepted the head coaching position at Golden, one of Summit’s biggest rivals in the 4A Jeffco League.
Neal’s daughter Samantha, who led the Tigers with 17.1 points per game this season, will play for her dad in Golden.
The Demons advanced to the Elite Eight of this year’s state tournament after completing their second consecutive undefeated season in the 4A Jeffco League.
Jenny Cook, who has coached Golden for the last six seasons, opted to take a few years off from basketball following her recent pregnancy, Neal said.
Coach Neal cited several reasons for taking over her job.
“There is certainly a basketball component to this,” he said. “But it wasn’t even in the top two or three considerations. There are both family and business reasons. … And the lease on our house expires in June.”
Neal, whose primary occupation is real estate investing, finds most of his work in Denver. He said that commuting to the Front Range four or five times each week has grown tiresome over the last few years. He also said he considered other coaching options following his first season with the Tigers, but never actually applied for another job.
Summit High athletic director Gretchen Nies said Neal will be missed.
“I’m disappointed that Jeff is leaving and I would love to keep him on board at Summit,” Nies said. “He has raised the bar in each of the years he’s been here. I hope him leaving won’t be a step back for our program.”
The Neals moved to Summit three years ago after living in Highlands Ranch for nearly a decade. Neal served as an assistant coach at 5A ThunderRidge when it won the 2003 state championship then found his first head coaching job at Summit after serving as an assistant for a year with the Lady Tigers.
Neal is already anticipating next season’s Demons/Tigers matchup, which will take place at Golden in mid-February.
“It’s not really a game I’m looking forward to,” he said. “It will be hard to coach against (the Tigers) after I’ve become so close with them. It will be a hard night for Sam, too.”
Neal, who was offered the Demons’ position on Tuesday, will assume his new duties immediately. His first detail will be to address his new team regarding spring and summer playing opportunities. He will then name his assistant coaches.
“Golden will still be one of the top two or three teams in the league,” Neal said. “But I don’t expect them to go undefeated. I actually didn’t expect them to go undefeated again this year.”
The Demons defeated the Tigers 56-43 in Summit on Feb. 10, roughly one year after beating them 57-40 in Golden.
It’s difficult to determine who the Tigers will miss more next season: Neal the coach or Neal the player.
Sam Neal is one of four Summit starters who won’t be returning to the lineup. Current junior Lynlee Holloway will be the Tigers’ only returning starter next season.
Nies said she hopes to have a new coach in place by June 7, prior to the school’s summer closure.
“I would love to find a coach that is already working in our building,” Nies said. “But that doesn’t preclude qualified candidates from other sectors from being considered.”
Jeff Neal’s Tenure
” 2004-05 ” Tigers posted 18-8 record, went to the Sweet 16 of 4A state tournament, had five players named to all-Jeffco team
” 2005-06 ” Tigers posted 17-8 record, went to second round of 4A state tournament, had four players named to all-Jeffco team
Adam Boffey can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13631, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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