|Mike Neer posted a .767
winning percentage in three years at Hobart and has 629 career
Hobart athletics photo by Matt Yeoman
Hobart basketball coach Mike Neer has announced his retirement. One of the most successful coaches in NCAA Division III history will call it a career at the end of the month.
Seven Division III men's basketball teams that qualified for the NCAA Tournament last March will have new coaches this winter, as Hobart joins Rhode Island College, Cabrini, Mary Washington, Hope, Williams and Rose-Hulman.
"After considerable reflection, I'm retiring this summer," Neer said. "This has not been an easy decision for me as my three seasons as a Statesman are among the most rewarding of my 42 years in coaching. Since becoming Hobart's coach, I've taken the responsibility one season at a time.
"Three seasons have provided continuity and a foundation on which to build. For its continued growth, I believe that our program would benefit from a longer commitment than I can make at this time. Other interests are competing for my time and energy. I don't believe that I can both coach and explore other interests at the same time. It is time for me to shoot or pass."
The numbers are impressive. Over 37 seasons, including the last three at Hobart, Neer coached 975 games, compiling a 629-346 record. His win total ranks 10th on the NCAA Division III all-time list.
Neer spent his first 34 seasons as a head coach at the University of Rochester before joining the Statesmen in 2011. The 18th man to lead the Hobart basketball program, he posted a 66-20 mark over the past three seasons. Neer is 10th on the Statesmen all-time list for games coached, but has more wins with the Purple and Orange than all but five of his predecessors while his winning percentage (.767) and wins per season (22.0) significantly raised the program's standards.
While the statistics are impressive, it's Neer's impact on his student-athletes as an educator that is most impressive. His alumni have achieved success in the fields of education, law, medicine, business, finance, communications, and coaching. Neer has mentored nine All-Americans and nine CoSIDA Academic All-Americans.
Recent graduate Richie Bonney thrived under Neer's tutelage, winning the 2014 Capital One Academic All-America of the Year Award for Division III men's basketball and the 2014 Jostens Trophy, which recognizes the nation's most outstanding player for excellence in basketball, academics, and community service. He is the first Statesman to win both awards, and the first student-athlete to be so honored under Neer's leadership.
"Mike Neer has added to the heart of Hobart athletics," said Mike Hanna, Hobart athletic director. "He has been as good for our entire staff as he has been for the student-athletes, parents and alumni of Hobart basketball.
"Along with his players and assistants, Coach Neer has built Hobart basketball into a nationally-recognized program and he has made that process fun. His career spans five decades during which he has made significant contributions to intercollegiate athletics, coached teams to extraordinary levels of achievement and inspired so many, many student-athletes, coaches and support staff…all my words fall far short of what Mike Neer deserves in terms of appreciation and respect."
After ending a one-year retirement from UR to take the reins at Hobart, Neer led the Statesmen to a school record 23 wins against just six losses. Hobart won the Liberty League regular season championship by three games. Despite falling three points shy of the Liberty League Tournament title, Neer's Statesmen received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championship.
In just the program's second NCAA appearance (first as an at-large), Neer guided Hobart to its first NCAA win, topping Ohio Wesleyan 64-60 and nearly got the Statesmen to the third round, falling 90-88 in overtime to fifth-ranked and eventual national runner-up Cabrini on the Cavaliers' home court.
A year later, Neer paced Hobart to a 21-7 record, including a 15-1 mark in the Liberty League, again winning the regular season title by three games. This time the Statesmen wore the Liberty League Tournament crown as well, dispatching Rensselaer 72-63 in the championship. Hobart drew No. 13 Rhode Island College in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Championship. The Statesmen lost by just three and not before taking the Anchormen to overtime.
In his final season, Neer directed a 22-7 campaign. His Statesmen secured another Liberty League regular season championship (again by three games) and took the tournament title 75-74 in overtime against Vassar. Unranked Hobart was paired up with No. 21 Scranton in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Championship. The Statesmen earned the program's most decisive NCAA tournament win, upending the Royals 94-81. The run came to a close in the second round against a deep and veteran-laden Morrisville State squad.
Six times during his career, including twice at Hobart, Neer's teams received the Sam Schoenfeld Award for outstanding sportsmanship from the Western New York chapter of the College Basketball Officials Association. He and his assistants were voted the Liberty League Coaching Staff of the Year in 2012 and again in 2014. Additionally, D3hoops.com tabbed Neer the 2012 East Region Coach of the Year.
"I want to thank Mike Hanna for this opportunity," Neer said. "I inherited good kids, a dedicated coaching staff, and an athletic department culture that inspires and supports daily. Mike has kept his coaches mindful that we are still learning what we're teaching. As a coach here, I've benefited from the Napier Leadership Seminar, which provides our athletes with an education outside the playing field. This has been an additional tool for coaches and its value has shown up in the teams' achievements and in the lives of our students.
"Mike has created a culture of learning that permeates everything in Hobart athletics," Neer said. "I don't think I can overstate that value."
At UR, Neer led the Yellowjackets to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including four trips to the national semifinals, three championship games, and the 1990 national championship. He was voted the University Athletic Association Coach of the Year three times and garnered the 1990 NABC National Coach of the Year award. In 1992, Neer received the Elliott Cushing Award from the Rochester Press-Radio Club for the local person who has excelled on a national level. The award came after UR's three-year run in the NCAA tournament that resulted in a national championship (1990), a quarterfinal appearance (1991), and a national runner-up finish (1992).
Neer began his coaching career at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he served as an assistant coach for five seasons. A 1970 graduate of Washington and Lee University, Neer earned a master's degree in education from UR in 1988.
"As a teacher, colleague and citizen, Mike has been our very good fortune since joining the colleges in August 2011," Hanna said. "Hobart College is honored to call Mike Neer a Statesman ... and a most distinguished one he is."