East Ridge's Neely gets national HOF honor
NASHVILLE (WRCB) -- Catherine Neely is still in shock over her latest coaching honor, but she's about the only one.
After nearly five decades of success leading young athletes at East Ridge High School, the legendary volleyball and basketball coach will become the first woman from Tennessee to be inducted into the National High School Hall of Fame on Wednesday night.
Neely is one of 12 members of the hall's Class of 2012. She'll be inducted alongside former NBA greats Kevin Johnson and Fred Hoiberg, as well as Heisman Trophy-winning Auburn quarterback and long-time college coach Pat Sullivan, among others.
"This has to be the pinnacle of anybody's career," Neely said at the Hall of Fame's pre-induction press conference Tuesday night. "When the phone call came I just said, 'Me? I can't believe you're calling me.'
"It's just such a surprise because you don't get into coaching for this. But this still has to be the greatest reward I've ever had."
Neely is certainly deserving of the honor after serving as East Ridge's head volleyball coach for the past 48 years and athletic director for the last 20. She also coached the Lady Pioneers' basketball team for 43 years before stepping aside a few years ago.
She'll enter the Hall of Fame ranked third in the nation on the all-time volleyball wins list with 1,371 victories. Her teams have won two state championships and also finished runner-up two other times.
With 625 wins on the basketball court as well, Neely has nearly 2,000 career victories combined between the two sports. However, it's the lives she's touched, the people she's met, and the experiences she's shared along the way that mean the most to her.
"I've seen volleyball change from playing eight people on the court to the power games it is today. I've seen so many opportunities for young women. I've been able to bring sports into East Ridge and coach them for a little while," Neely said. "And I've been able to see the caliber of athletes we have today, not that we didn't have good ones back then, but the dedication and the opportunities have been made better for them now."