A familiar face will be taking over the Vandalia Community High School girls basketball program.
A little more than three weeks after longtime Lady Vandals coach Mike Butler announced his retirement, VCHS Hall of Famer Michelle (Kaiser) McNary was hired as the sixth coach in VCHS girls basketball history at Tuesday’s Vandalia School Board Meeting.
She will also take over the open physical education teacher position at the school.
For McNary, who served six years as Butler’s assistant earlier this decade and was a three-year varsity starter for the Lady Vandals during her prep career, the opportunity is a dream come true.
"I’ve been waiting patiently 12 years for something to open up," said McNary, a 1991 VCHS grad. "When the P.E. job opened up, I was really excited. Then when the coaching job opened up, it was just an added bonus, because it was something I always wanted to do here."
McNary has been employed as a teacher in the Pana School district the past 12 years. She had a two-year stint as freshman girls basketball coach prior to assisting Butler at VCHS.
The 1998 VCHS Hall of Fame inductee’s maiden name can be found all over the Lady Vandals’ record book.
McNary scored 1,192 points during her four-year varsity career, good for sixth place on the program’s all-time list.
She is also listed in the Lady Vandals’ top 10 all-time in career field goals, free throws made and 20-point goals (24, 3rd all-time).
Also a softball standout during her career at VCHS, McNary earned basketball and softball scholarships from Lake Land College, where she played both sports for two years.
She went on to play two more years of college basketball, earning a scholarship from Eastern Illinois University before transferring to Illinois College.
Having waited patiently for the opportunity to coach the varsity Lady Vandals to come along, McNary knows that patience will also be a virtue in her first year on the job.
McNary’s first season as Lady Vandals’ head coach will no doubt be a challenging one, as VCHS will lose eight seniors – including all five starters – from the best team in program history.
The Lady Vandals’ list of accomplishments during the 2008-09 season includes a school-record 28 victories, the third regional championship in program history, a 16-game winning streak, the program’s first-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance and the best winning percentage by any basketball team – boys or girls – in VCHS history.
Next year’s varsity team will essentially consist of this past season’s junior varsity group.
"I think this next year is definitely going to be a rebuilding year for us, with a lot of young girls who have no varsity experience," McNary said. "I don’t know what to expect for this year, other than we’ll work hard and see what happens.
"But down the road in the next couple years, I hope to be pretty competitive if all goes well."
In addition to last year’s JV team, McNary is excited by the potential of the group currently in the Vandalia Junior High School program.
She envisions the team eventually implementing an up-and-down style of play.
"I’d eventually like us to play a fast-paced style and get the ball up and down the court," McNary said.