GUERNSEY - Steve Zimmerman has taken over the reins at Guernsey-Sunrise High School as the head of the basketball program.
Before coming to Guernsey, he was the varsity basketball coach at Lingle-Ft. Laramie High School. Zimmerman’s arrival comes right on time as Taylor Dick departed to take a coaching and teaching position at Shoshoni High School.
Zimmerman is Wyoming born and bred, growing up and playing basketball at Wheatland High School where he played a forward for three years on varsity. He graduated in 1978 and went on to play basketball at LCCC for two years before heading to the University of Wyoming.
“I was one of those slow boys from Wyoming that didn’t seem to have it,” Zimmerman said. “I was basically a gopher for coach Jim Brandenburg. At that time, I got started working the camps that UW put on. My senior year I was over in Cheyenne and doing my student teaching at Cheyenne Central where they still needed an assistant coach at the sophomore level, so through his recommendation I ended up getting that job and that’s what got me started with high school sports.”
So his career in coaching began in the 1981-82 season. He came out into a great start and a 12-3 record that first year. After he graduated from UW, he went directly over to Torringon.
“That first year we did an experiment,” Zimmerman said. Jim Wiseman was the Athletic Director who is legend around this county, had a girls team that was really struggling. He had visited with some people at the University and he hired me as an assistant head coach in charge of defense for the girls varsity. It was an experiment.”
Zimmerman who was known for his prowess at first teaching defense said that at the beginning he used a lot of man-to-man defense.
“What I found out when I first started coaching especially in the small schools was if I didn’t have seven good athletes across the board that I didn’t have faith in, I did a lot of zone,” he said.
His strategy is set to fit the situation, and his years of experience have given him confidence and wisdom in what he has his teams play.
“I was extremely fortunate through going to a couple of clinics and then some emails back and forth to Rick Majerus (former college and NBA coach who passed away in 2012 of a heart attack at the age of 64) and I started following him,” Zimmerman said. “I put all kinds of stuff together that he had.”
As for his teaching career, he first came to Torrington as a middle school social studies teacher and he did that for 14 years. During that time he was an assistant coach before moving over to Southeast where he took over the varsity program and nearly won a state tournament. From there he was back at Torrington High School for six years. If Southeast was a feast of talent for him, he says that Torrington was a famine.
As his career began to gain steam, he advanced from a teaching position to an administrator position and moved to the elementary school.
“At that time, I was out of coaching for 10 years,” Zimmerman said. “In this district you can’t coach and be a school administrator. Then I moved into our central office and took a position called a transition coordinator in 2012. I made an agreement that since I was not an administrator though I was still fulfilling a central office position that I could coach for one sport. Jerry Vandersloot was the principal at Lingle and that program was in trouble at the time. They didn’t have the numbers coming out and they hadn’t won very much. I got that job and coached in Lingle for 10 years.”
Zimmerman has had success follow him in whatever program he has coached in. He also had taken a Lingle team to the state championship against Burlington. He coached at Lingle through last year and then decided he was going to retire. He had 40 years in as an educator and was looking forward to some well-deserved time away from coaching.
Because of indicating that he was retiring, he had to actually have a break in service. It was ultimately his wife who guided him back toward coaching and after he left Lingle, he just simply missed it. He began to call around and inquire as to jobs that may be open and found that Guernsey has Taylor leave, but they had someone in mind for the job. He left it as a sign that perhaps he was to take a year off.
“I got a call from Liesl a few days later asking me if I was still interested because their candidate didn’t work out,” Zimmerman said. “So, I took the summer as my break in service, so I couldn’t coach the team, but I did go to camp and see them play while Curtis Cook was coaching them.”
Zimmerman is optimistic about the Guernsey-Sunrise team this coming season.
“I think it’s going to take us until Christmas, not so much to learn skill, but learn verbiage, expectations, common thoughts on how we’re going to approach different situations when the opposition hits us,” he said. “This year I feel that Upton will still be pretty decent, Southeast should be pretty good, they didn’t graduate a whole lot. As far as the No. 1 team in 1A, I wouldn’t hesitate maybe to put Kaycee as the No. 1 team to beat. I see us fourth, maybe third depending upon how things go at regionals. I think we’re going to have to beat Hulett to get to regionals.”
Zimmerman wants to try to put pressure in transition on teams and he mentioned three or four perimeter players that he can use to get that job done along with some switching zone presses.
Another bright spot for the varsity team this year is the addition of industrial arts teacher, Troy Reichert who is coming aboard as Zimmerman’s assistant. Reichert who has coached both boys and girls is no stranger to the hardcourt.
On the girl’s side, Curtis Cook who was the assistant for Taylor Dick last year has moved over to head up the girls’ varsity basketball program.