Hope men's basketball coach Matt Neil is a finalist for the 2012 John McLendon National Coach of the Year. The John McLendon award, sponsored by the website collegeinsider.com, is presented annually to the head coach encompassing all collegiate levels (NCAA Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and JUCO).
The finalists include Tom Izzo of Michigan State. Other finalists are Ken Ammann, Concordia University Irvine; Mike Brey, University of Notre Dame; Horace Broadnax, Savannah State; John Calipari, University of Kentucky; John Cooper, Tennessee State; Jim Crutchfield, West Liberty; Steve Green, South Plains College; Frank Haith, University of Missouri; Marcus Kahn, Cabrini College; Ben McCollum, Northwest Missouri State University; Danny Miles, Oregon Tech;; Pat Miller, Wisconsin-Whitewater; Paul Peck, Lindsey Wilson College and Chad Warner, Shorter University.
A trailblazer and one of the true pioneers of the game, John McLendon became the first African American coach to win an integrated national championship. His team went on to win the NAIA Division I Men's Tournament in 1957, 1958 and 1959, making him the first coach in history to win three consecutive NAIA championships. In 1962 he became the first African American head coach in a major professional league (ABL) with the Cleveland Pipers. In 1966 he became the first African American head coach of predominantly-white university, when he took over the Cleveland State program. He led the team to their best record in school history. In 1969, McLendon was hired by the Denver Rockets and became the first African American head coach in the American Basketball Association.
Neil earlier was named the NCAA Division III Great Lakes District Coach of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches and d3hoops.com. Neil in his first two seasons as coach has led the Flying Dutchmen to back-to-back conference championships and appearances in the NCAA Division III championships. This year's team posted a 27-2 record to improve Neil's two-year mark to 50-9.
The winner will be announced at the CollegeInsider.com awards banquet on March 30 in New Orleans, site of the men's NCAA Basketball Championship.