Mike McNally ’82 feels blessed to have had natural athletic skills. “Sports brought me out of my shell and made me a leader. Knowing people looked up to me in all areas, whether walking down the hallway at Saint Ignatius or seeing people go crazy at the games – you just felt good to represent the school as a class act.”
Growing up in Rocky River, Mike attributes much of his early ability to his older brother Sean ’78. “Ever since I was young, he’d take me outside and have me rebound for him. I always played with kids my brother’s age and they toughened me up. Sean chose Saint Ignatius and was successful in basketball there and I followed.”
Although he played other sports, “in the 1970s, it was all about basketball at Saint Ignatius,” recalls Mike. “The football program wasn’t quite there yet. I had always loved basketball and playing outside, even shoveling the driveway to play in the winter. I did tons of shooting and had so much confidence that no one could cover me.”
At 6’5” and 180 pounds, Mike was fast. He ran the court for layups with remarkable skill as a wingman who could run and shoot like no one else. Coached as a freshman by Tom Pasko, hon. ’19, Mike remembers excellent training on shooting, running and defense. “That’s where my confidence started to build. By sophomore year, coach Marty Chambers '52 had me practicing and playing with the varsity team.”
In his junior year, Mike was dunking the ball after fast breaks and scoring an average of 17 points per game. In one match-up with Barberton, he scored an unforgettable 33 points, many from near the bench. “Today, those would’ve been three-pointers,” he laughs.
By his senior year, Mike averaged 23 points per game, finishing as the fifth-leading scorer in school history. “We had a nice team with good athletes. They relied on me to be ‘that guy’ getting the ball in the hoop and points on the board.”
Mike was named an All-Ohio First Team player, ranked by the Plain Dealer as the number one player in Cleveland, and voted John J. Wirtz Athlete of the Year by the student body.
Recruited by numerous colleges, Mike accepted a full scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where he played in the elite NCAA Division I Metropolitan conference with crowds of up to 15,000. Seeking more playing time and a better team record, Mike accepted a recruiting offer to transfer to Niagara University in his junior year. He finished his career on a high note at this Division I school with a strong basketball tradition. “And as a smaller Catholic school, it reminded me of Saint Ignatius. The academics were strong and I concentrated on my business classes.”
Mike has had a successful career in banking for 25 years, currently serving as a mortgage loan originator for Third Federal Savings & Loan Association. His daughter Meghan played basketball for Avon Lake High School, and he is proud of her skills and work ethic. “She knows all about my history at Saint Ignatius. With the camaraderie, the rigorous academics and the spirit of the place, it was a privilege to go there.”
Mike McNally and his wife Amy live with their daughter Meghan in Avon Lake.
Mike will be inducted into the Saint Ignatius Athletic Hall of Fame on August 12 at Wildcats Roar. Tickets for the event are still available.