Birds, Dogs, and Kangaroos
Life on the Back Roads of College Basketball
by Rich Zvosec
foreword by Fran Fraschilla
When the 65-team field is announced for the NCAA tournament in March, all the schools are lumped into one bracket. But, with the fact that no number-16 seed has ever beaten a number-1 seed serving as evidence, there is a group of schools in the bracket that are worlds apart from the BCS schools.
Some of the schools, labeled the 'mid-majors' make it into the Sweet 16, practically their version of making it to The Final Four. Rarely these days does a team go so far as George Mason University from the Colonial Athletic Conference did in 2006 when the Patriots played their way into The Final Four. Or Davidson, a little liberal arts school from Charlotte, taking Kansas all the way to the final seconds in the 2008 Midwest Regional final.
The mid-majors have a better shot at knocking off the big boys. The low majors—the schools from The Summit Conference, the Ivy League et al—most often have no shot. Yet coaches from the low majors stake their careers and reputations at getting into the NCAA tournament field. Rich Zvosec was one of those coaches.
Zvosec takes you into the world of low majors that's never been revealed before in detail. It's a world that involves less coaching and more demands centered on fund-raising, commuting and handling off-the-court affairs.
It wasn't unusual for Zvosec or any other coach on the low major level to be doing the team laundry, searching for housing on behalf of his players or becoming make-shift mechanics when the commuter vehicles broke down.
Zvosec takes you into the world of coaching that makes you ask, “Why do you do it?” And most often the answer is, “Because they love it.”
About the Author
These days Rich Zvosec (pronounced zuh-VOH-sick) enjoys a successful career as a television basketball commentator, a speaker and an actor. But the foundation for this stage of his life was built from a successful college basketball coaching career.
When Zvosec was hired at St. Francis College in New York, he was the youngest NCAA Division I head coach in the country at the time at age 27. After his third season as coach of the Terriers (the dogs), named the Northeast Conference Coach of the Year, Zvosec was hired to build the University of North Florida Division I program from scratch.
In the fourth year of the Osprey (the birds) program, UNF reached the Sunshine State Conference championship game. His success at St. Francis and UNF didn't go unnoticed when he was hired at UMKC. So when the Kangaroos head coach departed for a job in the NBA, the Kangaroos administration didn't hesitate in turning the program over to Coach Z.
The UMKC Kangaroos (commonly known as the 'Roos) never enjoyed more success in Division I basketball than during its six seasons under Coach Z. In 2005, he was named Mid-Continent Conference, the College Insider and CBS Sportsline Coach of the Year.
From his roots in the state of Ohio, Coach Z learned how to successfully navigate the back roads. He was never one to shy away from hard work, which has carried on to this day in his current endeavors.