As a veteran athletic director with nine seasons at Nashville High that included numerous state tournament trips, Neil Hamon wasn't necessarily looking to make a job switch.
However, an opportunity to work exclusively as an athletic director appealed to Hamon and he was hired Monday night as the new A.D. at Central High School near Breese.
Hamon, 43, had been working as the athletic director and assistant principal at Nashville High School.
"I like the idea of doing full-time athletics and that's the main reason I made the switch," Hamon said. "It's also a wonderful community like Nashville and a good place to raise children. I think it's a great fit for myself and my family. I wasn't actively looking, it was just the right fit at the right time."
Hamon replaces longtime Central High athletic director Al Warnecke, who died April 11 at age 60. Warnecke had been Central's A.D. for more than 25 years.
Former Cougars basketball coach Stan Eagleson had been serving as Central's interim A.D.
"We're excited about Neil and we were very happy that he applied," said Central High Principal Kent Jones, who liked Hamon's experience and background with winning sports programs. "That's something we obviously took into the conversation. Al was like the mentor in the Cahokia Conference with the other ADs and there's a lot of work involved in being an athletic director.
"It's more than just scheduling games and hiring referees."
Hamon, from Hardin County in southern Illinois, had been at Nashville for 14 years, including the last nine as athletic director.
"I followed Don (Hawkins) after he retired (at Nashville) and through the years I'd gotten to know Al very well," Hamon said. "There were a lot of times we'd talk and communicate about different ideas. I always looked up to Al and thought he was a wonderful athletic director.
"I don't think you compare anybody to Al, Al was just a special person. I will try to come in and do my very best to continue the success the programs have had there through the years."
Hamon said Nashville was special because of the friends he made and the run of success enjoyed by both the boys and girls sports teams.
Nashville has won state championship in girls golf, girls basketball and softball (twice) in recent years. The Hornets were second at the Class 2A boys basketball state finals last season and also have made numerous state tournament trips in a variety of sports.
"I'm most proud that we have had success here in all sports," Hamon said. "At some places, certain sports are successful and others are not. I've always tried to promote all our sports fairly and keep it well-rounded."
It's the same approach he will uphold at Central, which also has a strong sports tradition including recent state titles in boys basketball (2012), girls basketball (2007) and girls volleyball (1997, 2006, 2008).
Hamon is looking forward to working at a new school in a new conference.
"It's tough any time you leave a job, but I always think you need to look to grow professionally and try new challenges," he said. "There's a lot of friendships and close connections I've made through the years with coaches and families and community people (in Nashville), so that part of it is always tough.
"But I'm extremely excited about the new possibilities I have now."