MHS grad new Army coach

Spiker ready to start basketball practices Oct. 16


Zach Spiker just turned 33 a week ago. His wife, Jennifer, has an ice cream cake waiting for him. “She’s keeping it in the freezer,” Spiker said. “I haven’t had a chance to eat it yet.” He spends his days in his office as the new men’s head basketball coach for Army with no computer and the lights go out sometimes for no apparent reason. And he couldn’t be happier. “All I need is a phone right now, anyway,” Spiker jokes. “Just give me a phone and a list of contacts. That’s all I need.” Spiker, a Morgantown High graduate, and a self-professed basketball junkie, is about to embark on a basketball journey like few coaches have ever had before him.
Army athletic director Kevin Anderson released coach Jim Crews from his contract Sept. 24. Spiker was hired Oct. 3. Practice begins Oct. 16.
“Whirlwind was the word I’ve been using lately,” Spiker said. “Now I think the new word for the day is head-spinning. That’s a good way of putting it.”
Good impression
Spiker was in the Chicago area recruiting for Cornell, where he’d been an assistant coach for the past five seasons, when he got a phone call asking him if he’d be interested in interviewing for the Army position.
Spiker helped Cornell coach Steve Donahue rebuild the Big Red into an Ivy League power. Cornell has qualified for the past two NCAA tournaments and went 21-10 this past season before losing to Missouri in the first round.
Before that, Spiker spent two seasons as an administrative assistant with John Beilein at WVU and two more years as a graduate assistant at Winthrop.
“Yeah, I felt like I have paid my dues,” he said.
This, though, was a chance to be a head coach, and it was unexpected to say the least.
“I can honestly say, when we brought him in at Chicago, from the time he sat down to talk to us to the time he left, he had us sitting on the edge of our seats,” Anderson said. “He had an amazing presence and an amazing kind of energy about himself.
“The minute he sat down in the chair, he captivated us.”
Spiker remembers something a little different.
“Well, if I was keeping them on the edge of their seats, they had some really great poker faces,” he said.
Love of the game
Spiker remembers buying poster board with his brother from a local Morgantown store as a kid and making their own NCAA tournament brackets.
He speaks fondly of the days when the Mountaineers were in the Atlantic 10 and the conference tournament would be held in Morgantown.
That love for basketball took him from playing for Tom Yester’s program in high school, to checking on Beilein’s personal daily schedule at WVU.
It took him from AAU tournament to AAU tournament, from New Jersey to Chicago and all points in between.
“The hospitality room in Morgantown [for the annual Triple S Harley-Davidson Jam Fest AAU tournament] is still the best by far,” he said.
With each stop, with each climb up the basketball coaching ladder, Spiker was coming closer to realizing his dream of becoming a Division I coach.
Army, though, where athletes are committed to a way of life, and not just a sport, is a challenge, but being hired as the coach less than two weeks before the first practice ...
“It’s still a little overwhelming,” Spiker said. “Anytime a job comes open, I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of interest.
“At first, I thought my interview was just going to be over the phone. To know they were looking at a number of guys and then chose me, it’s just a humbling experience for me right now. At the same time, it’s very motivating.”
Ready to go
Spiker will have a class of seven seniors, as well as all of the assistant coaches who were with Crews this past season, returning from an 11-19 team.
He has a list of two kids committed to the program for next season.
“I’m calling them next,” he said. “Right now, it’s all about recruiting.”
He dines with his players in the mess hall. He’s already working on the 2010-’11 schedule, and maybe he’ll get that computer soon.
“Right now, I’m trying to speedbond with all my guys,” Spiker said. “I’ve been enjoying every minute so far. The time I’ve got to spend with the players has been great.
“I hope to show them that I’ll always be here for them, and at the same time, show them that we can build something very positive here.”

Web photo

Zach Spiker was
selected as Army’s new head basketball coach.