WAHOO – Longtime Bishop Neumann Coach Mike Weiss has made the decision to step down as head basketball coach at the school he has called home for 33 years.
He said he just knew that it was the right time.
“I knew last May that this would be last year as head coach. My wife and my family knew and so did my assistant coaches, but they were the only ones,” said Weiss. “You just know, you can feel it.”
Weiss and the Cavaliers just wrapped up an 18-6 season on the hardwood, his 18th year as the head coach at the school.
Weiss retires as the all- time winningest basketball coach in school history (350-104). Weiss took nine Cavalier teams to the state tournament, won four state championships, and added runner-up, third-place and fourth-place finishes in Lincoln.
Weiss credits much of his success as a head coach to spending 15 years as an assistant under Paul Johnson.
Johnson led the Cavaliers to a pair of state championships in 1991 and 2002 and won 295 games in 20 years as head coach.
Weiss was a part of both of those state championships as an assistant under Johnson.
Weiss signed on to teach seventh grade when he arrived at Neumann in the fall of 1987 and got to work with Johnson on building the Cavalier basketball program into a perennial C-1 power.
Oh and he coached football and track too.
“I’m not sure how many people applied. It couldn’t have been that many, when you’re making $10,500 to coach three sports and teach seventh grade,” Weiss laughed.
Weiss served as Defensive Coordinator under Coach Tim Turman in the fall and collaborated with Johnson on the Cavalier sideline in the winter, and it wasn’t always smooth sailing for the fiery young assistant coach who graduated from Madison High School in northeast Nebraska.
“I’m sure people wondered who that crazy guy was on the sideline, but I was passionate and Coach Turman saw something in me,” Weiss said.
Paul Johnson did too.
“Paul would have some talks with me and say dude you have to calm down, but I was so darn competitive, it was hard for me and Paul would do his best to settle me down at halftime or after games when it came to officials and players. But, we had a great relationship and we could argue and disagree because we had a ton of respect for one another,” Weiss stated.
Weiss’s fiery demeanor took front and center when he took over as the head basketball coach in 2002.
The team was coming off a state championship season eight months earlier and Weiss knew that he had a special group coming back.
Weiss candidly admitted that he felt the most pressure of his head coaching career during that 2002-2003 season.
“We win the state championship the year before by upsetting Columbus Lakeview and my wife gets told three of four times within minutes after the game, hey no pressure, but basically next year will be a failure if we don’t win it again,” Weiss said.
Weiss spent the season taking as much pressure off of his talented team as he could, but most everyone around the Cavalier program expected the team to win night in and night out.
And the Cavaliers did.
Neumann finished with a record of 26-0 and captured the school’s third state title with a 68-52 win over Chase County in the 2003 Class C-1 state championship game.
“That team was a very versatile group. They were extremely talented and willing to do all of the little things it took to be successful,” Weiss said.
Success followed Weiss and the Cavaliers over the next two decades.
The Cavaliers won 22 games and finished runner-up in 2005.
The 2012 team won 21 games and finished third.
Weiss led the Cavaliers to C-1 state championships in 2014, 2016 and 2017.
For Weiss, winning four state titles and playing in five state championship games in 18 years was rewarding, but it was the 13 and 14 win seasons in 2007 and 2008 and this year’s 18-win campaign he lists as his best coaching jobs.
“In the late 2000’s when I won 14 games three years in a row I can honestly tell you along with this year were my best coaching jobs.” Weiss said. “When you have the talent to win a championship as a coach you just have to hold things together, but when you are maybe less talented you have to rely and really buy into the system and how we do things to win games against teams who are more talented than you. That is really satisfying as a head coach.”
This year’s team had eight seniors on the roster (many played for Coach Weiss all four years) and at the end of the season player meeting when uniforms are turned in, Weiss told the players that this season would be his last.
Weiss was emotional, but was able to deliver his message to his team.
“I was emotional, but not about my decision. I was comfortable with that. I was emotional about the 33 years that I have spent busting my butt and building what Paul and I built,” said Weiss.
At 56 years old, Weiss is going to continue in his position as the elementary principal at St. Wenceslaus and in between rounds of golf and time spent with wife Connie, kids Jessica, Trevor and Jamie and his grandchildren,
he is going to do his best to give back to the community which has supported him for more than three decades.
“I truly believe that if I would have been in any other community I would have been gone after two or three years. I owe so much to the Bishop Neumann community for how patient they were with me,” Weiss stated.
Assistant Coach and Bishop Neumann High School Principal John Kreikemeier will assume the head coaching role next December. He has served as an assistant under Weiss for the past nine seasons.
“John is going to do a great job. What people don’t understand is that John has helped Mike Weiss a lot. A big reason we have been so successful and won state championships is because of John’s input as an assistant,” said Weiss.
Another coach that Weiss has leaned on for nearly two decades is longtime Neumann educator and coach Doug Lanik. Lanik was on Weiss’s bench all 18 seasons and was an integral part of the four Neumann championships.
“Without a doubt. Doug was with me all 18 seasons. Doug was there for all of it and was a huge part of our success,” Weiss added.
Three weeks after telling his team that he was stepping down, not coaching anymore still hasn’t completely set in with the longtime coach.
“It’s kind of surreal. I mean who gets so lucky to coach with Tim Turman and Paul Johnson. Hall of Fame guys who really instilled confidence in me and helped me believe that I could achieve great things. I am truly fortunate to have been put in that situation,” Weiss added.