ATLANTA (March 14, 2017) — Freed-Hardeman University head coach Dale Neal is the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA National NAIA Coach of the Year, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association announced today.
Neal will be presented with the Pat Summitt Trophy, named for the late legendary University of Tennessee coach and awarded annually to the United States Marine Corps/WBCA National Coach of the Year in each of the WBCA’s six membership divisions, during the 2017 WBCA Convention, which will be held in conjunction with the NCAA® Women’s Final Four® in Dallas.
"The WBCA is proud to name Dale Neal as the 2017 United States Marine Corps/WBCA NAIA National Coach of the Year," said Danielle Donehew executive director of the WBCA. "Dale was selected as the winner by his peers after leading his/her team to an exceptional season. The WBCA recognizes and applauds his leadership example that can be seen in his student-athletes, institution and community.”
Freed-Hardeman concluded the regular season atop the NAIA Division I Coaches’ Top 25 Poll after Neal paced the team to an undefeated 30-0 finish. Entering this week’s national tournament, the Lady Lions are ranked first in scoring margin and defensive field- goal percentage as well as third in defensive three-point percentage and offensive rebounds.
This marks Neal’s 47th year in coaching. He joined the Lady Lions’ program in 1995 and immediately made history by leading Freed-Hardeman to a school-best 21-9 season. In 1997, the squad clinched its first berth into the NAIA National Tournament.
Neal holds the NAIA Division I record for longest tournament run with 21 consecutive trips. He has coached in one national championship game (2014), five “Fab Fours,” three national quarterfinals, and six conference championship games.
“The Marine Corps proudly recognizes Dale Neal for his exemplary leadership and dedication to the young women of the Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions,” said Lieutenant Colonel Brian Proctor, assistant chief of staff, diversity, Marine Corps recruiting command. “Neal demonstrates the core values upheld by those who hold the title Marine. The Marine Corps is honored to celebrate his fighting spirit, determination and excellence both as coach and mentor of the next generation of leaders.”
The NAIA national coach of the year is selected by a committee of coaches from among the United States Marine Corps/WBCA Regional Coaches of the year, who are chosen by vote of their peers in the respective WBCA membership regions. This year’s regional finalists were:
- Brian Orr, Lewis-Clark State College
- Drew Olson, Concordia University (Nebraska)
- Dale Neal, Freed-Hardeman University
- Samantha Quigley, University of St. Francis
- John Kenger, Midway College
- Richard Aubrey, Milligan College
Visit www.wbca.org/recognize/ to see a list of past recipients.
About the WBCA
Founded in 1981, the Women's Basketball Coaches Association is the professional association for coaches of women's and girls' basketball at all levels of competition. The WBCA offers educational resources that coaches need to help make themselves better leaders, teachers and mentors to their players; provides opportunities for coaches to connect with peers in the profession; serves as the unifying voice of a diverse community of coaches to the organizations that control the game; and celebrates those coaches, players and other individuals who excel each year and contribute to the advancement of the sport. Visit www.WBCA.org for more details about the Association.