Coach McCleary establishes a strong foundation in first year as Girls Basketball coach


Photo by Hope Shortridge

Alex McCleary encourages his team at the district final on Friday February 24th, 2023. McCleary wrapped up his first year as varsity head coach with a record of 17-4.

Alex McCleary has been labeled as the “young coach” in town. While this is McCleary’s first year as the head varsity coach for the Lincoln East Girls Basketball team, he has been coaching for eleven years, and the love goes back even further. The Battle Creek, NE native got his first basketball hoop when he was four years old, and has been playing ever since. McCleary played in college at Dana College and Midland University, under three different coaches, a time he described as “challenging,” but applicable for what he is doing now.

After college, he took a job at Rock County High School in Bassett, Nebraska and spent a tenure coaching there, eventually earning a state championship under his belt.

“It was a great experience with great people,” McCleary said. “I was then fortunate enough to get the job here at East.”

Growing up in a small town, McCleary was always asked if he’d ever move to a bigger city. After applying and interviewing at East, he knew that with the reputation of Lincoln and East, it would be a great place for his family to move to.

“The tradition that East has as a school; the athletic department is phenomenal,” McCleary said. “Winning the NSAA Cup last year was a big deal, and hopefully we’re well on our way to doing it again.”

As a coach, McCleary recognizes the importance of building strong relationships, while creating a positive culture and stressing hard work.

“We all want to win,” McCleary said. “But at the end of the day, it’s important that you can count on people to be there for you, whether it be me for them, or vice versa.”

Madison Adams, a three sport athlete and junior at East, described her coach as “positive and energetic”.

“With basketball not being my main sport, he’s made it a fun place to be,” Adams said. “I can’t say I’ve ever had a negative experience with him.”

The Spartans finished 18-6 in the 2022-2023 season. Even through the success of the season, McCleary sees loss as an opportunity to grow.

“As a competitor, those nights are tough and upsetting,” McCleary said. “But I tell the girls, they are upsetting because we work hard.”

To McCleary, the most rewarding part of coaching is seeing his previous athletes’ success down the road, and reflecting on those relationships.

“Helping our athletes grow into successful people, and giving them a positive experience so they can be successful in life,” McCleary said. “Being able to have a hand in raising our next generation through athletics I think is one of the best ways to do it.”