Brent McNeal has gotten a good bit of attention during the undefeated state championship run as head coach of the South Side Lady Hawks basketball team.
But he’s quick to make sure assistant coach Adrian Comer gets his share of attention as well.
“Coach Comer is an asset to this team in so many ways,” McNeal said. “He takes care of a lot of the details behind the scenes, and he pretty much runs the program during the fall while I’m helping coach the football team.”
McNeal is also the offensive coordinator for the gridiron Hawks, which means Comer is doing a lot of the work in preseason until football season ends.
“I get there when I can after football practice and before going home to the family, but he’s in the gym with them every day once we can start practicing,” McNeal said. “And he’s a calming presence for both me and the players all the time.”
McNeal had a grin when discussing that during the state tournament in Murfreesboro earlier this month because when the Lady Hawks got a technical foul called on the bench during the double-overtime win in the semifinals over Elizabethton, it was actually Comer who was the one who committed the violation according to the official on the other end of the floor.
“And to me, that shows you how wrong the missed call on the previous play was if he felt the need to get up and yell loud enough to get the tech called on him,” McNeal said. “But he really is one that’s helped me really understand that communicating with female athletes is different from communicating with males.
“And I’m a football guy, so I have a certain way of communicating when I need to, and when I get loud and fired up about something in practice or during a timeout, Coach Comer is the one who’s making sure the players understand what the issue is, how to fix it and getting it fixed.”
One of the more noticeable traits of the coaching staff on the sidelines during games is how they’re dressed.
The pair are always in uniform of their own. The outfits could be a retro-style look with a block “S” on a bright red letterman’s jacket from the 1950s or something more basic like simple black coaching shirts with black slacks.
The only time this season they were dressed the way McNeal preferred was for the championship game against Livingston Academy.
“I told him sometime the weekend prior after we’d won substate and was headed for state, ‘Pick out what you want for the first two games, but if we make it to the championship, I’m wearing a basic black suit and black tie,’” McNeal said. “But other than that, our uniform is all him because that’s one of the things he’s taken on when I say he takes care of the behind-the-scenes stuff.
“And that’s great because that allows me to be a head coach and take care of stuff the head coach needs to deal with while also allowing me to be a husband and a dad when we’re not in practice or in a game.”
Unlike McNeal, Comer is not a South Side alumnus. He graduated from Jackson Central-Merry.
“But that’s OK because he became a part of the Hawk family very quickly,” McNeal said, looking back to Comer’s first season with the program, 2013-14 (he was an assistant for both the boys’ and girls’ teams, and the boys won state that season). “We actually found out after we’d been coaching together for a little while that we’re actually distant cousins.
“So he actually is blood family for me, but he’s a cornerstone of the Lady Hawk family with this program. We’re glad he’s with us because he helped us get here.”
Brandon Shields, firstname.lastname@example.org