Veteran Centennial High football coach resigns

The Patriots' leader was the longest tenured coach in the 5A SIC.

rroberts@idahostatesman.comMarch 19, 2014 

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Centennial head coach Lee Neumann

SHAWN RAECKE — Shawn Raecke/ Idaho Statesman Buy Photo

— After devoting the past 42 years to football, Lee Neumann is ready for a quiet fall evening all to himself.

It's going to be strange.

Coaches come and go every year, but Neumann isn't just any coach.

"When you look at his career and his accomplishments, there's nobody that I respect more than Lee Neumann," Eagle High coach Paul Peterson said. "He's a great coach. He's so detail-oriented. His football teams are tough, tough and they take on his personality. They are going to compete and fight you tooth and nail."

The 54-year-old Neumann has led Centennial for 24 seasons, making 18 state playoff appearances with three championships and an overall record of 168-83.

He has mentored hundreds of young athletes and served as a prime example of how to build a winning tradition in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference - the state's largest and arguably most competitive league.

That's why it came as a surprise to nearly everyone when Neumann announced his resignation Tuesday.

"I just wanted to have some time to take a break from it and the coaching part of it. All the little details that go into coaching," Neumann said. "It sounds cliché-ish, and it will be, but I want to spend some time with my wife and my family that I have neglected for 20-some seasons."

Neumann led the Patriots to state titles in 1996, 1999 and 2003, and had a fiery passion for the game that players recognized from his early years to his last.

"We went into every game feeling like we should win that game," said former Centennial running back Brock Forsey, who later played for Boise State and was drafted by the NFL's Chicago Bears in 2003. "My junior year, we ended up winning state (1996), and looking back, I would say that we probably didn't have the best athletes in the state, but one of the things that Coach Neumann did is he got the best out of his guys."

Said 2013-14 Centennial running back Joe Murphy: "He's just a good coach, and he really cares about his players."

Neumann hasn't decided what he plans to do now that he won't be coaching football, but said he will continue to teach physical education at the high school.

"You never know, I may coach again or I may not, but right now I just need a break from it," he said. "I may possibly do something different or do nothing."

From 1996 to 2006, the Patriots appeared in the state semifinals all but one season, establishing a tradition that won't be easily duplicated.

"Lee is Centennial High football. What do you say?" Centennial Athletic Director Jon Watson said. "… The guy's a legend, and he's going to be missed."

Rachel Roberts: 377-6422, Twitter: @IDS_VarsityX

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