Brooks Neumann knew he only had one more season ahead him as the head coach of the Yuma Catholic boys basketball team.
When the perfect post-coaching job came available or him, he accelerated his timetable.
Originally, the only head coach the program has known was going to step down when his daughter Sydney entered high school in 2014. But a position responsible for boosting enrollment at Yuma Catholic became available, one that Neumann said he found very appealing.
“I thought you know what, it sounds like a good idea to me,” Neumann said. “To be honest with you I'm sick of the travel. And practice, I don't love going to practice anymore. So you have to know when it's time to say when. So when this opportunity arose, I said OK.”
Now instead of travelling to River Valley, Parker and Phoenix, he'll be in-town on trips going to middle schools and junior highs looking for students who meet the academic criteria to attend Yuma Catholic.
Neumann said the job — which is a stipend position, that he will hold in addition to his position at the school as head of facilities — is designed to get student enrollment up to at least 320. Right now it sits at about 290 according to Neumann,
“That's the bloodline of the school,” Neumann said. “It doesn't have anything to do with athletics. Academics is the most important thing. This school, most people don't understand, is as good for its academics as it is athletics. But athletics gets all the newspaper print. Our academics are really strong. It's as good as our athletics. It's exciting to be able to talk the students, to talk to the parents and let them know what we have to offer.”
Neumann said that the new job has nothing to do with athletics.
“I'm recruiting for academics,” Neumann said. “Our enrollment is Yuma County. We can take any kid from any junior high in Yuma County. We don't have boundaries as to what students we can take. And obviously we want to take students from every different section of town. It's not about athletics. You have to be a smart kid to go to school here. ... It's not just for rich kids either. We want to make sure everybody knows we're not just for the elite kids, we're for everybody.”
Neumann leaves behind a team laden with young talent, including juniors Carter Rodriguez and Matt Pistone. In all, seven players who saw major minutes last year will be back, with holes filled in by a freshman team that went undefeated.
He said leaving behind such a talented team for his successor actually made his decision easier.
“It's not like I'm leaving someone with nothing to work with,” said Neumann, who thanked his wife, Kari, along with former AWC coach Jim Amick and Tom Hurt, the principal at YC who gave him his start. “This year is going to maybe be the best team ever at Yuma Catholic, and in two years it will definitely be the best team YC has ever had. It's hard, but it's also easy. They are great kids.”
YC athletic director Rhett Stallworth said he'll begin the search for Neumann's replacement next week. He said he had no names in mind for the position.
“I've had a couple people contact me that have heard through the rumor mill that Brooks would be stepping down, or had stepped down or whatever,” Stallworth said. “We kind of told them to hold that thought. We're going to open it up in another week or so and do it right, find the right fit for the school and the kids.”
Stallworth said Neumann will be missed on the court, but since he's still working at the school “it's not a total loss for YC.”
“Anytime you mention Yuma Catholic, you associate Brooks Neumann with Yuma Catholic,” Stallworth said. “He's obviously well loved in the community and well loved at Yuma Catholic. He's one of those guys that always brings a smile to your face. He's always in a good mood, loves kids and he loves basketball. He's going to be missed.”