Ryan Madison's introduction to Neosho High School came in December 2014 during the school's annual holiday basketball tournament.
"When I was at St. Joseph Lafayette, we came to the holiday tournament," he said. "The fieldhouse is awesome, really neat. I started thinking this would be a neat place to coach."
That thought is now reality as Madison has been hired as the Wildcats' girls basketball head coach. He replaces Macey Embrey, who served as interim coach after Matt Hixson was relieved of his duties with four games left in the regular season.
Embrey has left Neosho and been hired by the North Kansas City district.
Madison's longest tenure during his 24-year coaching career was eight seasons at St. Joseph Lafayette. He brought his team to the Neosho Holiday Classic his last four years there, and the Fighting Irish went 1-2 in the tournament their first year and 2-1 in the next three seasons.
"I thought it was a neat tournament," Madison said. "Our first four years we went to Penn Valley in Kansas City for a holiday tournament. It was just a tournament, no special feel to it. The good holiday tournaments are the ones that feel like a special event. The Neosho tournament always felt special, with teams from all around the country, especially on the boys side. One year our Lafayette boys were really good, and they played a guy (Carsen Edwards from Atascocita in Humble, Texas) who scored 32 and went on to play at Purdue and now is with the Boston Celtics.
"It's a neat experience with the 3-point shootout. We had girls from Lafayette win that in two of three or three of four years. It was always a well-run tournament, on time. We really enjoyed it."
Madison's basketball philosophy starts with defense.
"I'm a defense-first coach," he said. "I don't care how many shooters you have, if you can defend you'll have a chance to win. There will be nights when you don't shoot it well, especially when you're not in your gym. You can still win if you guard people."
Offensively speaking, "I want us to get the best shot we can every trip down the floor," he said. "I want to make sure we understand what a good shot is for each kid and get the best shot every trip."
Madison, who is a Spanish teacher, has had Zoom meetings with the high school girls and contacted all girls in the program from seventh grade up.
"I'm still waiting to see what we can do over the summer," he said. "I would have liked to have been in the gym already a few times but have not had the opportunity. I hope we can get in there. In Northwest Missouri a lot of people have canceled everything in June. ... It will be great to return to somewhat of a normal existence. Everything is so up in the air right now."
Madison is from Northwest Missouri and stayed in that area until the last two years. He graduated from South Harrison High School in Bethany in 1991 and from Missouri Western as a Spanish major in 1996.
His first teaching/coaching position was at Penney High School in Hamilton, and after six years there, he spent one year at Albany and seven years at Stanberry (winning three district titles) before going to Lafayette. He coached girls basketball each year except for two years at Stanberry when he coached the girls and boys teams.
Madison then came south and coached one year at Bolivar and last season at Capital City, a new school in Jefferson City. Capital City had only freshmen and sophomores in school this year, and it finished 7-18, including 6-7 after Christmas.
Madison is still living in Jefferson City and plans to move to Neosho in a couple of weeks.