November 20, 2015
Southern Torch (3918 articles)
1 comment

OPINION: I Respect and Support Coach Neal Thrash

Dr. John E. Morgan photo

Brother John Morgan is the pastor at Collinsville Baptist Church. He works closely with Collinsville High School as the official statistician for the Panthers football team and scorekeeper for the basketball team. Morgan has spent more than 25 years working with coaches at CHS including Coach Neal Thrash.

By: Brother John Morgan, Collinsville, Ala.

I do not know much about the circumstances involved in the court case between Neal Thrash and the Board of Education and Superintendent Taylor.  I was not there.  I do know that we live in a fallen world full of people who are not perfect.  That includes basketball coaches, Board of Education members, Superintendents and preachers.  We all make mistakes, even if we have the best intentions.  So I will await the findings of the court about this incident.  There’s lots we do not know.

I do know Neal Thrash and the kind of man he is.  If all that I knew about him was the kind of children he and Tina have raised, I would respect him greatly.  Taylor, who I heard was getting into the family business of teaching, really belonged to us down here in Collinsville.  We got to watch him as a little boy wandering around the gym.  Trent has always been respectful and polite to me even though he barely knows me.  And Carly is a wonderful young woman who reminds me so much of her mom and dad.  Three wonderful young adults who did not get wonderful by accident. One thing I do know about the court case is that it has gone on too long.  I hurt all last year for Neal and Tina as this case invaded Carly’s senior year.  Unfair.

If all I knew about Neal Thrash was what I know about him as a teacher, I would respect and admire and recommend him highly.  I have four sons, two of whom married Collinsville girls.  When our family gets together that makes six Collinsville grads.   And they all had Neal as a teacher for World History. Their discussions often return to high school days and teachers.  They will argue about who was the best teacher they had.  Mrs. Weaver for math.  Mrs. Barksdale in home Ec.  But they pretty much all agree that the best teacher that they had was Neal Thrash.  Nothing but respect from them for him.  After one of these family discussions recently, I asked one of my sons what made Neal such a good teacher.  He told me that it was because Neal was demanding that all students learn the subject.  High standards on grades.  A good grade in his class had to be earned.  No room for excuses.  And that Neal held himself to the same standards.  How can you not respect and admire a teacher like that?

If all I knew about Neal Thrash was the way that he continues to care about his students and players even after they graduate, I would admire and respect him.  When I see Neal, even though he has been gone from Collinsville for years, he always takes time to ask about my four sons.  Always.  (Tina is the same.)  He continues to care about them.  I see him at ball games with other former players and students.  He always seems to want to talk to them.

But, of course, I also know a lot about Neal Thrash the coach.  For many years I have kept the books for high school basketball games.  I have had the joy and honor of working for L.D. Dobbins, Neal Thrash and Jon Tidmore.  Down here in Collinsville, we think that if a Mount Rushmore of DeKalb basketball is ever built, those three men will have to be on it.  They are all great coaches.  They are not the same and did not coach in the same way.  But they were (and are) all great coaches.

I was on the books when Neal followed Coach Dobbins.  Hard to follow a legend whose name is on the gym where you are coaching, but Neal did it with respect and dignity.  When Neal left Collinsville to go back home to Fyffe, he showed the same respect to Coach Tidmore.  It can be hard to be fair to the one who follows you, but Neal was and is.

I watched Neal coach a lot of games.  He coaches as he taught – demanding, always pursuing excellence, always hunting for one more way to get better.  He was never, ever satisfied with less than his best for himself.  And he demanded the same of his players.  And Collinsville won a lot of games.  County championships, regular trips to Jacksonville and that one season where he carried a team to Birmingham to the Final Four.

Two of my sons played for Coach Thrash.  They both would go to the mats for him.  It wasn’t because of the winning.  It was because of what he taught them about doing your best and still striving for better.  Of trying a little harder when you don’t think you can do any more.

And of the value of team.  Of making each other better.  Of caring for each other.  Is he demanding?  Yes.  Thank you for that, Neal.  But he is also kind and caring.  Actually a little bashful at times.

Does he sometimes yell?   Oh, yes.  Once another parent asked me how I could stand having Neal yell at my son.  My response to the parent was that there had never been a single time that Neal raised his voice to my son that I was not saying the exact same thing under my breath.  Neal and I both wanted my sons to be better.  He never yelled at either of them when they did not need correction.  How could I get angry at him when I was thinking the exact same thing – that really was a bad pass, or a missed opportunity?  The players who stayed with him mostly figured that out.   Sometime it is hard for parents to get it, and I understand that, too.  None of us are completely rational about our children.  We love them too much.  And, as I said at the beginning, none of us is perfect, including Neal.   I am saying that for me, loving my children meant being thankful for the teaching and coaching of Neal Thrash.

I do not know how this court case will turn out.  But I do know that I admire and respect Neal Thrash.  And that he is my friend.  That won’t change when this case is over.

Southern Torch

Southern Torch


  1. Sheila Johnson
    Sheila Johnson November 24, 14:44
    Way to go, John! You couldn't have said it better. I, too, had a son in Coach Thrash's world history classes, and to this day he tells stories about things that happened in class and how much he enjoyed it. Thrash and Johnny Mack Edwards were his two favorites. I have always greatly appreciated their quality teaching and so does my son, Zach Meadows.

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