Interview with Zach Zoll,’20; basketball player turned assistant coach

Zolls 2019-20 season photo for Mens Basketball; Photo contributed by

Zoll’s 2019-20 season photo for Men’s Basketball; Photo contributed by

Zach Zoll, ’20, played on the men’s basketball team. After graduation, Zoll was hired as an assistant coach for his alma mater. 

Why did you decide to play basketball at Allegheny?

I was looking at a school in Minnesota to play basketball, and was getting heavy looks there. In my senior year, I injured my wrist and was in the hospital for a week. Allegheny was the first and only school that talked to me during the whole week while I was (in the hospital). (I realized) the coaching staff was committed to their recruits and it really sold me to come to Allegheny.

After playing under Head Coach Bob Simmons for three years, how does it feel to work alongside him?

I actually enjoy it. You see a different side of him. I like it because it shows his passion and how much work he actually puts in not just for a two-hour practice, but all day — and sometimes at night, he makes sure everyone is prepared before practice starts. Also, (Simmons) prepares for the upcoming season and then the future seasons to have good gear and snacks for our guys. It is a good work atmosphere.

What was Simmons role in hiring you as an Assistant Coach of the Men’s Basketball team?

(Assistant Coach Evan) Bonnaure told me the day before that he was leaving for an assistant coaching job at Washington & Jefferson. He told me to reach out (regarding a coaching position at Allegheny). The next day Simmons called me and said, “Are you interested in a coaching position here? I really like your playing style as a player. Let’s do a formal interview.” I had a Zoom interview with him over (the) July 4 weekend and was visiting my girlfriend at the time. I brought my suit just in case when I was travelling because I wanted to do some interviews. I interviewed with the Assistant Coach (Greg) Bean and (Head Baseball) Coach (Brandon) Crum, and the interview went well since I’m here (at Allegheny). Since I have been here, he has given me huge assignments to help me get to the next level of coaching and build my experience.

What made you want to become a coach?

My junior year (of college), when I got hurt, I thought, “what can I do to get back to the team?” I really enjoyed (helping out the team). I started studying film and did all this stuff that as a player I never thought of doing before. I was having the time of my life. I was starting my senior project, but did not want to flip my major because I was in physics. I was basically (done with my major), and only had one more class to take along with my senior project. That summer of my junior year, I was in Green Bay, Wisconsin, working with a guy who trained a lot of NBA prospects. I worked with NBA basketball players and I enjoyed that. I wanted to bring (everything I learned) back to the young guys (on Allegheny’s team).

What are your responsibilities as an assistant coach?

I do recruiting all day, everyday. We do academic meetings (with our players) to make sure they are prepared for Allegheny’s academics. Once the season starts, I watch film with our players. Because I was a 6-foot-8-inch post player, I am going to primarily work with our post players (forwards and centers) with their footwork. I also make sure that if they need anything, they always have my number —  24/7. I make sure all our uniforms are organized so that our uniforms are ready by Oct. 1. It gives me experience in all fields and I want to get to the Division I level. In the Division I level, these coaches are assigned to specific areas, but if I have a role in every single area, I can really expand myself. I wanted to work under Simmons because previous coaches I had (now) work at Chatham, NYU, and Washington and Jefferson, so it proves to me that these guys can get to the next level of coaching.

What were some of your greatest moments as a member of Allegheny’s Men’s Basketball team?

The most memorable moment for me was my junior year and then senior season. In my junior year, I did not play the whole year because I had surgery on my ankle. I got into coaching that season because that’s all I could do. I wanted to help the team, so I started watching film. I did everything so our team could be successful even though I could not play throughout the whole year. Two other memories (were) when Jordan Rawls, ’20, got the record-breaking shot (to become Allegheny’s all-time scorer), and just playing with the guy guarding him, we were on the bench going nuts. I always love that moment because he got that score. In my senior night game, I told Peter Snipes, ‘23, that I am going to get to the free throw line and get two shots; a minute in, I got fouled and got two free throws and I was like, “yes, I did it.”

What was it like to compete in the playoffs for two consecutive years?

Both times we were facing Wooster. I knew the second time in our senior year that game was going to be really hard to win. The feeling that we got to the playoffs, it made us feel that as a team we can compete with (Wooster). We competed that whole game, but they broke away at the end. Those playoff games honestly proved to me what we are capable of doing. This year, I feel like we are going to break that stride and win those playoff games and hopefully win (a title).