Niehaus cherishes fond memories from Forest Park

Photo by Jimmy Lafakis/The Herald
Spring Valley coach Marty Niehaus, left, chats with former assistant and current Forest Park head coach Tony Hasenour, right before Thursday evening's contest in Ferdinand. The Rangers won, 41-28.


Reflecting on hoops history

FERDINAND — Marty Niehaus strolled to the head coach’s seat on the Springs Valley sideline, paused for a moment and sat down. While the Blackhawks prepared to tip off against the Forest Park Rangers (2-0), Niehaus took inventory of her surroundings.

Thursday evening’s girls basketball contest between the squads marked a homecoming of sorts for Niehaus. After serving as Forest Park’s head coach for 25 years, she enjoyed an opportunity to compete once again against the Rangers.

When she recalls her Forest Park tenure, Niehaus speaks highly of the program and community.

“As you get older, it becomes a little bit hard to remember some of the things that went down,” she said. “I see some of those old players every once in a while. I see the coaches that I worked with through the years. We have a lot of fun rehashing things and telling stories.”

A fierce competitor, Niehaus relishes those opportunities to reminisce.

“It is fun to look back, talk to these ladies that are grown-up and find out what they’re doing in their lives,” she said. “There are some special connections with those people.”

One particular highlight rises to the top of the laundry list. In 2000, Niehaus led Forest Park to a Class 2A runner-up finish in the state tournament.

“That state tournament run we had was special,” she said. “Those kids really meant a lot to our program. They were great kids to work with. I had a lot of fun with that.”

Niehaus took over at Springs Valley in 2017. Although the change of scenery came with its peaks and valleys, the head coach took her new chance in stride.

“There were some adjustments that I had to make,” Niehaus said. “Things over here are a little bit different than they are at Forest Park. It was kind of cool for me to start over.”

Living in the moment

When Niehaus stepped down from her role at Forest Park, longtime Rangers assistant Tony Hasenour took the reins. Well-equipped with prior experience, Hasenour embraced the challenges of his new position.

“They always say that you don’t want to be the coach who follows a legend,” Hasenour said. “That’s what I feel like I’m doing here. Nobody ever really says anything, but I have so much respect for the school and for the program. I put that pressure on myself. I feel that weight. I want to make sure that Lady Rangers basketball stays successful.”

While Hasenour continued his diligent work at Forest Park, Niehaus spearheaded improvement within the Springs Valley program. The members of her initial class have developed into well-rounded seniors.

“To see the way that they have progressed is kind of rewarding for me,” Niehaus said. “I feel like we’ve done a good job with them. They’ve made a lot of progress over those years.”

That improvement comes as no surprise to Hasenour, who absorbed valuable coaching tidbits from Niehaus.

“Coach Niehaus was always one to have disciplined teams,” he said. “They were always high-character teams. That’s another thing that we try to do here. We want to make sure that our girls play hard. At the same time, they will play in a way that brings honor to the community and honor to the school. I think we’ve been able to do that.”

Forest Park earned a gritty 41-28 victory on Thursday evening, but the coaches’ mutual respect persists.

“I always tell the girls, ‘364 days a year, I’m a big Springs Valley girls basketball fan,’” Hasenour said. “I know that 364 days a year, Coach Niehaus is a big Lady Rangers basketball fan.”

When the sun comes up this morning, both coaches will resume cheering for each other.

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