Legendary Tiger coach Rick Zoulek to be inducted into Hall of Fame

September 18, 2023

Coach Zoulek at his home in Shelby.

Legendary Tiger coach Rick Zoulek to be inducted into Hall of Fame

He is also the recipient of the National High School Basketball Coaches Association John Wooden Legacy Award.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor

SHELBY — Longtime Shelby Tigers basketball coach Rick Zoulek will soon be inducted into the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame, and he is being honored as the recipient of the National High School Basketball Coaches Association John Wooden Legacy Award. 

The first Shelby coach to ever receive the honor, Zoulek is one of four coaches in Michigan to be inducted into the BCAM Hall of Fame this year. He is one of two Michigan coaches to receive the John Wooden Legacy Award, which is presented annually to a boys and girls coach in each state. 

Zoulek’s overall coaching record is 736-382 — 223 wins coaching the girls and 513 victories coaching the boys. 

“Under his guidance, the teams have secured numerous accolades, including 19 league championships, 24 district championships, four regional championships, and two final four appearances — one for the boys and one for the girls,” states a BCAM press release. “His coaching success has also led to well-deserved recognition and honors in the coaching community.” Coach Zoulek’s accolades include: Division 3 coach of the year, regional coach of the year, all-star coach, and West Michigan Conference overall coach of the year. 

Zoulek, who retired from teaching at Shelby High School in 2017, marks his 39th year coaching Tiger boys basketball. He taught business, personal finance and physical education at Shelby for 32 years. For 21 years, he coached both boys and girls basketball at Shelby — 11 of those years he coached both genders at the varsity level. He also assisted with coaching Tiger baseball for a few years.

“I always knew that I wanted to coach, so I jumped right in,” he recalled.

“I think it’s a testament to the school system to keep me as a coach for that time period and to be positive and supportive. Our staff was just incredible as far as working together. We had a staff at the high school that I feel was second to none in how they worked together and how they worked together for the common good of the kids.”

In addition to the strong support of the school staff, Zoulek credits the many long-term assistant and JV coaches who have worked by his side over the years, like Brian Wright and Chuck Persenaire. “It’s really easy to know what each other is thinking, and I think that carries over to the kids and the program. That stability that you have all the way through your program is really important.”

Zoulek’s coaching legacy carries onto the next generation with his daughter Sarah Wolting who has served as the Tigers girls varsity basketball coach for the last dozen years.

Shelby’s team ended its first season with a 0-21 record when Zoulek first started coaching. He did not let the winless record deter him or his players. “In my first four years, basically I won 23 games. It probably would have been pretty easy for the school board to look for another coach, but they saw that I was working hard and trying to do what was best for the kids and trying to build a program. I came back and started the Saturday Morning Basketball, which my dad (Ted Zoulek) and Jimmy Darrow did back in the ‘60s. When I came back in ‘85, I resurrected it.” At Saturday Morning Basketball, the varsity players mentor the young players. 

Zoulek appreciates the support from parents and the community over the decades as well as his players. “I’ve been lucky to have a lot of good kids. They’ve taken ownership in the program; and they make sure things get done; and they make sure the other kids are on the same page.”

Having the devoted support of his wife Cathy all these years has also been a big booster. “It’s a pretty big commitment for me to be there all the time and for her to raise three kids in the meantime. My kids have all loved basketball, so I have been lucky there. I was able to coach all three of my kids — Keith, Sarah and Amber.” The Zoulek family also includes 11 grandchildren.

“Just seeing the kids celebrate — like last year when we won districts — seeing their jubilation” is something he treasures. “We weren’t a great team, but we were a team that peaked at the right time. And seeing the community come together and support the kids, it’s just such a cool feeling.”

A 1976 graduate of Shelby High School, Zoulek, was a three-sport athlete for the Tigers, competing in basketball, baseball and football. In 1980, he graduated from Hope College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a secondary education certification He played basketball and baseball at Hope. 

Coach Zoulek will be honored during the BCAM Hall of Fame Banquet Sunday, Oct. 1, at the Auburn Hills Marriott in Pontiac. 

The 65-year-old has no plans to retire from coaching any time soon. “I love what I’m doing.”

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