Former UMHB stars find success on Crusader coaching staffs

Published: Feb. 8, 2021 at 11:55 PM CST
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - Two former Mary-Hardin Baylor student athletes find themselves back in the purple and gold - but instead of wearing jerseys, they now wear whistles.

Haven Neal played for UMHB from 2014-2018. She said she had such a great experience, she couldn’t wait to join the coaching staff in 2019.

Thomas Orr played from 2011-2013. He served as a student coach in 2014, but this is his first season as a full-time member of the staff. His decision to come back was rooted in a haunting feeling of unfinished business.

Coach Orr explains, “We have a big banner in our arena and when I walk in there, I look at it. It doesn’t say ‘Champions’, it just says ‘National Championship Game’. It’s a daily reminder of why I wake up every morning and work hard.”

Coach Orr’s team lost in the National Championship. He uses his team’s experience making a run to the title game, and eventually falling short, in lessons for the team today.

It is a unique situation for Coach Neal because she actually played alongside some of her current players.

Coach Neal remembers, “That was definitely a different dynamic going from, I was your teammate and your friend, to now, I’m your coach.”

Both coaches have embraced the role of being a mentor, but they both admit, they miss playing.

Coach Neal says, “As a coach I am preparing and doing scouting reports, watching film, and practicing with the girls. Then on game day all I get to do is make the subs. After that it’s basically all up to them. Sometimes I’m like, give me my jersey, I want to get out on the floor.”

Coach Orr adds, “When we are playing bad, I just want to get out there and do it myself. Then, sometimes they will be playing really well and I’m like, this is fun, I want to be a part of that.”

Both coaches say they focus on building close relationships with the players. That includes some healthy trash talk, going both ways.

“I tell them every day, you have to stay humble, I don’t want to embarrass you in front of everybody,” says Coach Neal.

Coach Orr said when the team questions his skills, he tells them, “I can dunk, I just don’t want to because I’ll be sore for 2 or 3 days after that.”

The men are currently riding an eight game win streak, and the Cru are sitting in first place in conference.

Both teams play again Thursday.

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