Former Sooners hired as strength and conditioning coach and graduate assistant manager.
June 3, 2009
NORMAN, Okla. - Oklahoma men's basketball coach Jeff Capel announced today that former OU players Jozsef Szendrei and Michael Neal have joined his staff.
Szendrei, who was a Sooners center for the 2000-01 through 2002-03 seasons, is the program's new strength and conditioning coach, while Neal, who played as a guard during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, is a graduate assistant manager.
Szendrei returns to his alma mater after spending the past two years at Texas Tech as an assistant strength and conditioning coach for the Red Raiders football team. After graduating from OU in 2003 with a degree in international business (he minored in marketing), Szendrei continued his playing career for three years in Switzerland, Hungary and Spain. He returned to the U.S. to play for former OU assistant coach Bob Hoffman and the Arkansas Aeros of the American Basketball Association and then entered the strength and conditioning field.
Known for his work ethic and spirit while at Oklahoma, Szendrei was a member of OU teams that claimed Big 12 Tournament titles in 2001, 2002 and 2003. The junior college transfer was granted a medical hardship in 2000-01 and averaged 1.4 points and 2.5 rebounds over the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons for OU squads that went a combined 58-12 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Final Four and the Elite Eight, respectively.
"I'm proud to be back at Oklahoma," said Szendrei, a native of Budapest, Hungary. "I had great years in Norman and I consider this my home in America.
"I told Coach Capel when I interviewed that there might be more high-profile guys out there, but nobody would bring more pride and passion to the job than I would. I'm really looking forward to working with him. He's what I call a 'new generation' coach. We're both young. We understand the lingo, we can relate to the college years because it wasn't too long ago that we were there. I'm really happy to work for him and the entire coaching staff."
Neal, from Mesquite, Texas, graduated from OU with a degree in African-American studies in 2007 (he was a first-team Academic All-Big 12 selection as a senior on Capel's first OU team) and played professionally in France and Germany during the 2007-08 season. He spent the 2008-09 school year in Connecticut as a middle and high school teacher and coach.
One of the better 3-point shooters in OU history, Neal averaged 11.1 points over his two-year OU career and registered a .375 shooting mark from behind the arc. He was named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2006-07 when he averaged 12.4 points and shot .424 from long distance (.495 in Big 12 games). He drained 26 3-pointers over a four-game stretch in league play that season.
"I missed OU," said Neal, referring to the last two years. "I missed being around the players, I missed being around the coaches, I missed the camaraderie. Professional ball isn't what it's like in college. I talked to Coach Capel about becoming a G.A. and he told me he'd definitely like to have me here.
"I only played for him one year and I feel like I really would have benefited from playing for him for four years. So I'm just trying to study under him, learn the things that he likes to do and hopefully that will help me down the line. I really want to be a high school head coach eventually."
Neal will spend two years in OU's intercollegiate athletics administration graduate program.