HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Odessa High’s Welch to leave for Weatherford

After four years in charge, Odessa High boys basketball head coach Neal Welch has announced that he will be leaving for Weatherford for the same position.

Welch made his announcement on Wednesday.

Welch said the decision was based on being closer to home as he and his wife Tori have family in the metroplex.

“I’m from Dallas and my family’s from Dallas,” Welch said. “My wife is also from Dallas as well as her family and we have our first child due on Sept. 3 so we started thinking about the big picture and we realized that we really wanted to be 45 minutes away from our family, as opposed to the five hours. It gives us a good chance for the grandparents to see the grandkid a lot more and we can be around family and be close to home. That was our biggest factor.”

Welch took over as the man in charge at Odessa High back in 2019 after coming over from Crowley High School as an assistant coach.

During his time at OHS, Welch helped turn around a program that, prior to his arrival, went 8-25 (including a winless run in District 2-6A play) during the 2018-19 season.

“A lot of people (across the state) thought that success couldn’t happen at Odessa High,” Welch said. “When I took the job here, I lot of my coaching friends told me not to come there and that it’s hard to win here so I decided to take the risk and we ended up doing well.”

It took one year to begin the turnaround as the Bronchos managed a fourth-place finish in District 2-6A play during his Welch’s first season and a spot in the playoffs.

Things continued to improve on the court as Odessa High added two more playoff appearances in 2022 and 2023 which included bi-district championships in each of those seasons.

“We had back-to-back bi-district championships,” Welch said. “Two years ago, we ended up winning quite a few games, the most OHS won in about 21 years. We beat some ranked teams in that process. We made basketball fun again at Odessa High. I would be lying if I said it was all me because it was a team effort from the assistant coaches to the players and the community as well. It was a fun time.”

This past season, the Bronchos went 22-15, 6-4 and finished second in the district standings.

Odessa high defeated El Paso Coronado, 86-53, in the bi-district round before losing to North Crowley in a 62-41 area round contest.

“I think when you take over a program, you have to capture the hearts and minds of the young men that are playing for you,” Welch said. “We did a lot of team bonding. We had an open-door policy. We were constantly communicating with our players and their families. They were playing summer league, spring league and just any time they could and they gained that confidence and belief that we can do this and we can win.”

As a coach, Welch said he started to see and feel it all coming together that they were putting together something special at Odessa High.

“It got going in the right direction and before you knew it, instead of losing by 40, we were winning by 40,” Welch said. It was certainly a great feeling to witness the turnaround of the program.”

Now, Welch will face a similar challenge at Weatherford.

The Kangaroos are coming off a season that featured a 9-23 overall showing and a 2-11 record in District 8-6A.

“They’ve been bad at basketball for a long time and I believe they finished second to last in their district this year,” Welch said. “They’re in a unique area where they’re close to a lot of small school, basketball powerhouse towns. They’re surrounded by basketball talent. I don’t see any reason why Weatherford can’t start improving and get to where they should be but I’m excited for the challenge and to be close to home and for my parents to come to more games. It’s a brand new school. It’s a nice school and has a lot of great facilities. I don’t have any teaching duties, either. I’m just coaching basketball.”