By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
NAPPANEE — Adam Yoder is a young man. He’s also a veteran coach.
The 1998 Bremen High School graduate will need that experience as he has been tabbed as the heir apparent to Steve Neff, the legendary architect of the perennial powerhouse NorthWood High School girls basketball program.
Yoder will be the coach-in-waiting for the 2013-14 season while also serving as the JV coach. The move was approved by the Wa-Nee school board Monday night.
Neff, a member of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, announced at the end of last season that the 2013-14 campaign would be his last. He has already retired from his teaching position at the school.
Next season will be Yoder’s sixth working for Neff. His first two were as the freshman coach and the last three at the JV level.
“Steve is a legend,” Yoder said. “The numbers he has put up during his career are beyond my imagination. I have no thoughts of even coming close to them. But at the same time I know Steve is one that I can depend upon if there is a question about something.”
Neff’s numbers are impressive. He enters his 37th season with a 634-175 record (.784 winning percentage) to go with 23 sectional, 10 regional, two semistate championships and one state title (Class 3A in 1999).
Neff and Donna Cheatum (634-203 in 39 seasons at Scottsburg) enter next season tied for the most victories in Indiana girls basketball history.
“I want to thank Norm Sellers (NorthWood Athletic Director) for giving me the chance to get my feet wet,” Yoder said. “You can’t replace a coach like Steve. If I win a quarter of the games Steve has I will consider it a pretty good career.”
Yoder is not without head coaching experience. He has previously served as the NW girls track and field coach and is currently the NW girls golf coach. He plans on staying on as the girls golf coach. Yoder guided the girls golf team to a share of the NLC title in 2012, the first-ever title for the program.
“My ability to build positive relationships with the girls in the golf program is one reason I think I’m getting the chance to take over for Steve,” Yoder said. “Another is my enthusiasm for NorthWood athletics in general.
“Coaching the girls golf team has rejuvenated my love for high school athletics.”
One example of the positive relationships Yoder has developed is one player wrote a letter recommending him for the girls basketball job.
“Heidi Morganthaler wrote a letter of recommendation for me,” the coach said.
Just one year out of high school Yoder started his coaching career when former Bremen boys basketball coach Gary Hudson asked him to coach the boys freshman team.
Yoder played football and golf at Bremen.
He went to Indiana State before finishing at Indiana University South Bend.
Also while at NorthWood, Yoder was a football assistant for Rich Dodson from 2004-06. That period included NorthWood’s Class 3A state championship in 2005.
“Rich Dodson and Dan Gunn have taught me so much about coaching,” Yoder said. “I have been fortunate to work for some great head coaches.”
Yoder is also inheriting Neff’s staff that includes long-time assistants Brad Newcomer and Gene Zurcher,
“Both of them have been very supportive of my taking over the program,” Yoder said.
In addition to the great coaches he has worked for, there’s a great basketball coach in his family tree. His uncle, Steve Yoder, coached at Plymouth and Penn high schools before going on to the collegiate level at Ball State and Wisconsin. He led the Ball State Cardinals to the Mid-American Conference title in 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons when he was named MAC Coach of the Year.
Adam Yoder and his wife, Whitney, live in Nappanee. The couple has a son Thayne, 3, and daughter Maddie, 1.