Calvert Hall has hired 2002 graduate and former NBA player Gary Neal as its varsity basketball coach, the school announced Tuesday.
Also a Towson University grad, Neal, 36, played seven of his 13 professional basketball seasons in the NBA, starting with a three-year stint for the San Antonio Spurs.
After a standout college career at La Salle and Towson — he was a 1,000-point scorer at both programs — Neal started his pro career in Turkey in 2007. After stints in Spain and Italy, he signed with the Spurs in 2010 and went on to play for five more NBA teams.
In early April, Calvert Hall announced that previous coach Jason Hasson would not return after his third season, which ended with the Cardinals going 5-8 overall and 0-7 in the Baltimore Catholic League.
The school formed a nine-person committee to help with the selection process and Neal was the choice after an extended search. In addition to his coaching duties, he’ll also be on the faculty as a social studies teacher.
“Gary is a great fit for our athletic department and faculty. His experiences will help him lead our young men on the court and in the classroom,” Calvert Hall athletic director Lou Eckerl said.
After closing his playing career in Turkey in 2019, Neal returned to Towson, where he earned his master’s degree in teaching and served as a graduate assistant on the men’s basketball team.
With the Calvert Hall position opening one month before he graduated, Neal said the timing could not have been better and he felt it was meant to be.
“Having graduated from Calvert Hall with the diversity I will be able to bring, when you’re connecting to the students, I think that’s the biggest asset a teacher and coach can have,” Neal said. “Being 36 years old and having walked in the same hallways and the cafeteria and going to be coaching in the same gym I played in, it makes you very, very relatable.
“And when you think about the basketball side of it, every kid’s dream is to make it to the NBA. I have that side helping me as far as I played in the NBA and had a pretty successful career as a professional athlete. I’ve done the side on the books as well. So I’ve been blessed to have a really great life and I just think sharing my experiences with the student athletes is a big upside.”
During his high school days, Neal played his first three years at Aberdeen — leading the Eagles to their last state championship as a sophomore in 2000 — before transferring to Calvert Hall. He played his senior year under legendary Cardinals coach Mark Amatucci, a 1970 grad who won 389 games in his 19-year tenure.
“I’m thrilled that we’re going to have somebody who understands the legacy, who understands what Calvert Hall basketball stands for,” said Amatucci, who was part of the school’s selection committee. “Most importantly, I’m thrilled that he’s going to be in the building as a teacher and, being a person of color, he’s going to be a role model which Calvert Hall definitely needs. So I think at the end of the day, we are where we want to be and that is going forward with someone that’s going to do a good job and he’s going to get the program back to where we’ve been.”
Neal plans to bring many of the same philosophies that brought the program success during Amatucci’s watch.
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“First and foremost, my ideas are going to get back to really being a physical-, defensive-, rebounding-minded team,” Neal said. “I think especially on the high school level, the teams that are able to consistently impose their will, be physical, set good screens, play the right well, things like that, you’ll always give yourself a chance to win. That’s going to be a big part of my philosophy, just doing things the right way — being physical, being disciplined, being unselfish — that’s what I’m really going to be aiming for.”