Michael Sneed’s role as a member of Loyola’s staff involves much more than the Xs and Os of basketball.
His reach is greater than that, according to head coach Tom Livatino.
“Mike is a really special and impressive person,” Livatino said. “He’s tremendously gifted, and it’s amazing what he does for our school.”
For the third year in a row, Sneed (left in the picture above) is putting together a leadership workshop for the 2017-2018 Ramblers basketball teams. It includes reading books, listening to guest speakers and engaging in thoughtful discussions. Sneed said he designed the program with senior Ramar Evans in mind.
Last year, the Ramblers read “Obstacle is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. Speakers included Rev. Patrick McGrath, the president of Loyola. This year’s book is Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” It explores the reasons why people, including athletes, are successful. The speakers are to be determined.
“I am interested in peer leadership and infusing critical thinking into the game,” Sneed said. “It’s not easy to lead someone who is your peer. Ramar was a good example. It took him time to get comfortable being a leader.”
Senior Kai Khasu was a player who benefitted from Sneed’s mentorship this season. The two became close after Sneed switched to coaching guards this season. Khasu went from working with the scout team in November to playing meaningful minutes in March.
But Khasu said Sneed helped him off the court, too.
“He was someone I could go to for advice on dealing with problems away from basketball,” he said.
Added Livatino, “If players are having trouble, they go to Mike. That tells you what kind of coach he is.”
Livatino has known Sneed since 1998, dating back to when Livatino was an assistant coach to John O’Loughlin during Sneed’s senior season with the Ramblers. That team captured Loyola’s first Catholic League championship since 1964.
“He was a very smart, tough kid with a high motor,” Livatino said. “He understood his role, which was to be a great defensive player, rebound, do the intangibles. He was a great teammate, and he exhibited the qualities that would make him a great coach.”
Sneed, a forward, said his playing days shaped who he is as a coach today.
“I couldn’t shoot or dribble, so my in was to work hard and do the things no one else wanted to do,” he said. “I ended up liking it, and I saw success with it.”
It was his lack of voice as a player that drove Sneed to create a leadership program as a coach.
“I was soft-spoken and not very expressive,” he said. “What I am trying to do is put players in positions where they are out there and taking risks.”
After graduating from the University of Illinois, Sneed came back to the area. Livatino encouraged him to apply for a job as a counselor at Loyola. Sneed accepted a position in the department in 2010 and has been an assistant on the varsity staff for the last seven seasons.
“This job allows me to relive my high school experience and be part of a brotherhood,” Sneed said. “It keeps me young and keeps my competitive fire alive. But the best part is seeing players grow as people.”