Jul. 29—ANDERSON — Earlier this month, Shannon Cleckley resigned as girls basketball coach at Anderson High School following a seven-year run that yielded plenty of local success and brought respect for the program from beyond the area.
During his tenure, Cleckley's teams were 79-91 overall. He won five Madison County championships — including four in a row from 2018-2021 — as well as the 2021 North Central Conference title, the first for the Anderson girls since 2008. His teams were in the county finals six of those seven years, with the only exception coming in 2022 when the Indians were forced to forfeit their first-round game due to COVID-19.
His teams were 19-2 overall in Madison County tournament games and were consistently in the top half of the NCC.
"It was a joy," Cleckley said. "Wow, that's actually pretty decent. I thought about all those players we had and they really bought into what we were doing. ... I felt like we could have won a sectional or two, but we just didn't have the right timing and couldn't get it done.
"I always loved the county tournament, and I always had my teams ready for that."
Cleckley, who retired after 25 years as a police officer in July 2020, worked with the team through summer workouts and games. But, with his added commitment to teaching criminal justice classes at Anderson Community Schools' D26 Career Center as well as a part-time job with Adult Protective Services for Madison County, he did not feel he would be able to give the basketball program the attention it deserved.
"I just didn't feel like I could give the program what I needed to continue to give," he said. "I think it just wore on me a little bit, and I didn't know if I wanted to go through another year with all the nuances and time to juggle everything. I thought this might be a good time for me to step away. I felt I needed a break, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to take a break."
Anderson athletic director Steve Schindler said he was surprised by the departure and Cleckley was as successful off the court working with the student-athletes as he was on the court.
"I think while he was here, he was able to advance our program quite a bit," Schindler said. "We were very happy to have him, and he represented the school very well. He teaches over at D26, which is one of the bigger programs, and he was very relatable to the kids."
Cleckley said was his favorite — and the most important — part of coaching is helping young people get ready for life through sports.
"I really just enjoyed my time with girls basketball," he said. "I felt like I was able to make a difference with the girls and everything."
Despite Cleckley's resignation coming late in the summer, Schindler said there has been interest in the position, and he hopes there will be a new coach ready for approval at the Aug. 9 Anderson Community School Board meeting.
Cleckley has not closed the door to a possible return to the sideline if his situation were to change and the right opportunity were to come along. He has already heard from AAU programs that would be interested in his services.
"I still feel like I have some coaching left in me. I'll put it that way," he said. "Right now, I need to step away. But if things change, then I know I have some contacts that could maybe bring me on board. I feel I haven't closed the door."
Contact Rob Hunt at email@example.com or 765-640-4886.