Back to basketball

Former Pike High School basketball coach comes out of retirement to coach at SHS

With the 12th largest fieldhouse in the nation, basketball has always been an integral part of Cardinal culture.

So, after former Head Boys Basketball Coach Eric Brand stepped down last year, there was a long list of applicants all hoping to be hired. In the end, former Pike High School Basketball Coach Bill Zych was hired for the position, praised by all he interacted with for both his experience and attitude.

“I think that when you have a great basketball coach and a great person, you just get excited about what your student athletes are going to learn from them,” former Athletic Director Brian Murphy said.

Before being hired at SHS, Zych coached at many different schools, each with their own quirks and challenges. His first position was in Winamac, a small school, before the IHSAA had introduced classes to basketball, which, when implemented, divided competition up by school size. The old system, however, meant that all schools, regardless of their size, played in the same division and competed against one another for the state championship.

From Winamac, Zych worked his way up to bigger schools. When the IHSAA introduced classes to basketball during the 1997-98 season, he knew that he wanted to coach at the highest level: 4A, which includes the largest 25% of high schools in Indiana based on enrollment, including SHS.

This goal led him to become the head coach at Pike High School, where he has coached for the past 13 years. But, wanting to change his routine and retire from full-time teaching, he stepped down from his position.

But, Zych knew that he still had a passion for basketball, and more specifically, a passion for coaching it.

“I knew I still wanted to coach in some capacity,” Zych said. “ … and (the SHS job) turned out to be a perfect fit for me.”

According to Murphy, one thing that the athletic department looks for when hiring new coaches is the amount of time they will be around for. Generally, they look for candidates who will stay at SHS for many years and nurture the program, because too much turnover can hurt players.

However, despite the fact that Zych may not be around for as long as they would generally look for, the breadth of his knowledge and success made SHS decide to hire him.

“I think my background speaks that I’m able to teach and coach all types of kids that we’ll have at Southport,” Zych said.

When hiring, Murphy said that SHS had extremely strong internal candidates, specifically current Assistant Coach Isaiah Cousins. The hope is that over the next few years with Zych as head coach, Cousins will gain even more experience and confidence as he prepares to become the head coach himself in years to come.

“He’s kinda like the coach in waiting to get the program ready for when Coach Zych retires from our place, and then he’ll be the next person to take over,” Murphy said.

Murphy believes that learning from a new mentor will allow Cousins to see even more coaching strategies that will help him, and the SHS basketball program as a whole, for many years to come.

Zych’s wisdom and calming presence will help the players to grow on and off the court to become the best versions of themselves and set them up for success throughout the season, according to Murphy.

Although the SHS boys basketball team’s entire starting lineup last year was made up of seniors, there are many promising players coming up, including juniors Iman Cousins, Donovan Brewer, Jack Turner and Michael Johnson, according to Murphy. Despite not having much varsity experience, these boys have the talent to continue to be successful.

And, Zych, who has had lots of tournament success over his years of coaching, believes that he can grow the SHS team this year to do the same thing.

“Hopefully with the coaching staff, we’ll be able to continue that tradition at Southport of winning and hopefully try to get it winning at the highest level,” Zych said.

As important as winning is, Zych remains focused on what he can teach the players. He got into coaching as a way to pass on knowledge to his players and impact their lives, and he will bring that same passion and goal into his time at SHS.

“I think I have a lot to offer to Southport,” Zych said, “not only to the students and to the basketball players, but to the community.”