Living HistoryBishop Lynch coach Andy Zihlman notches 800 wins — and counting
Andy Zihlman, Bishop Lynch High School Athletic Director and head coach of the girls basketball team, celebrated his 800th win in February. JENNA TETER/The Texas Catholic
The Texas CatholicAndy Zihlman was on the road when he secured his 800th victory. But even in a rival’s gym, the opponent’s crowd made him feel at home.
His latest milestone as Bishop Lynch Catholic High School’s girls basketball coach came on Feb. 14, when the Lady Friars won, 53-44, at Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth.
In his office at Lynch on a recent morning, Zihlman reflected on that night at Nolan. What struck him most, he said, was the way the spectators rose to their feet to honor him, all partisanship banished. Zihlman, 800-246 since 1980-81, said the tribute at Nolan touched him deeply.
“Nolan interrupted its Senior Night,” Zihlman said. “They had me stand at mid-court on a floor we’d beaten them. I felt I was interrupting their special night. What they did was special. What they did was memorable.”
Nolan athletic director Steve Prud’homme said that his school owes Zihlman for having catalyzed improvements in Nolan’s girls basketball program.
“He is a fierce rival and also a friend,” Prud’homme said.“We’ve had such a history together.”
So much of Zihlman’s career is crammed in his office. High on one shelf, a framed crucifix presides over the dominant décor of commemorative basketballs, photos and trophies. He loves the photos best.
“You have to see this one,” he said, leaping from his chair as if a crucial rebound were at stake. “This is one from when we beat Mansfield when they were the defending state champion. Absolutely, it’s important to me that our players know about the history of the game. I coached the mothers of a lot of the girls I’m coaching now.”
Zihlman ranked ninth nationally among winningest active coaches entering the 2010-11 season (some states still have seasons in progress). He led the program to 24 of its national-record 27 overall state championships. He has a national-record tying streak of 12 consecutive state titles.
But he ducked taking credit, insisting that all that winning took a lot of positive energy. “A lot of people are part of that,” said Zihlman, who played football and baseball in high school.
When he made history on Nolan’s court, Zihlman was approaching the end of a season in which team injuries sacked the Lady Friars’ expectations. He said he contemplated retiring from coaching after the season. But his coaching staff and his family weighed in, wanting him to stay, and he said he will continue coaching.
Zihlman, a 1972 Bishop Lynch graduate, said he never expected to become a girls basketball coach.
“After I got into it, I loved it,” said Zihlman, who also is Lynch’s athletic director and a driver’s education teacher. “I take the responsibility to be a role model seriously.”
In 2008, Zihlman was named the National High School Coach of the Year by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.
He identified his mentors as the late Sandra Meadows, the legendary Duncanville High School coach, and Jody Conradt, the former University of Texas women’s basketball coach whose 1985-86 team won the national championship, going 34-0.
Conradt said that Bishop Lynch became widely associated with excellence because of Zihlman’s success. He coached young athletes at her summer camps at UT.
“He was so consistent over time,” said Conradt, who recruited 1993 Bishop Lynch graduate Amie Smith Bradley--a four-year starter at UT and now the head women’s basketball coach at Trinity University in San Antonio. “As much success as he had, he always deflected the attention away from himself. He has a lot of humility and is a man of such poise.”
Bradley said that Zihlman’s influence on young people did not stop on the court.
“Many people across the country ask me about playing for such a great program and I am proud to say the tradition of excellence starts with Coach Zihlman,”Bradley said. “His positive influence on so many young people can be seen in his phenomenal coaching record but his influence is highlighted by how many alumni are proud to say they were a part of the Lady Friar tradition.”
Zihlman, 57, said he encourages players to be aware of the pivotal steps that expanded women’s sports opportunities including Title IX, the 1972 federal law that opened doors for girls.
“They have to know the advantages they have, as well as the pressures,” said Zihlman, who is an usher at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Garland. “Sports are very competitive. I want them to know the history of women’s athletics and of Bishop Lynch athletics.”
Zihlman said that he prizes his family and always felt the strong pulse of his household’s love and support. He and his wife, Teena, have three children, all of whom are Bishop Lynch graduates: Coleen (1998), Caroline (2005) and Kurt (2008).
Though Zihlman never requested it, the players call him, “Sir,” instead of“Coach.” One of his state championship rings is engraved with“Sir.”
“He is a prime example of a man of faith and compassion,” said Michele Longoria Collum, who played for Zihlman and is in her 17th year on his coaching staff. ““He is very fair. It’s not easy to do what he does.”
Zihlman often gives talks at coaching conventions. The topic he will discuss during the NCAA Women’s Final Four in Indianapolis next month matches his motto:“Never stop learning.”
Andy Zihlman: By the numbers2— Years Andy Zihlman has NOT won a championship in the last 23 years.
3— Children he and his wife, Teena, have.
8— Active high school basketball coaches with more victories.
24— State championships Lady Friars have won under Zihlman.
29— Colleges where Lady Friars coached by Zihlman have gone on to play.
500— Girls Zihlman has coached at Bishop Lynch.