By Scott Halasz
BEAVERCREEK — The Ed Zink era at Beavercreek didn’t exactly get off to a flying start.
The venerable coach went just 11-36 in his first three seasons and his win total actually lowered each of those seasons.
But Athletic Director Rex Warner had faith. And 40-plus years later, Zink has made Warner look like a genius. The only varsity coach the Beavercreek girls program has ever had, Zink became the all-time winningest coach in Ohio girls basketball history last season and has 739 victories heading into Friday’s game at Lebanon.
That definitely creates a sense of pride for the school district.
But it doesn’t stop there for Beavercreek athletics. Current girls soccer coach Steve Popp is No. 3 all time with 356 wins including stops at Bellbrook and Wayne, and boys soccer coach John Guiliano is tied for seventh on the boys list with 391 wins, all at Beavercreek.
Three coaches. 1,486 wins. One historic feat.
There’s a plethora of reasons why Beavercreek can boast something very few, if any, others can.
“I think one of the things is the longevity,” said Guiliano, who took over the Beavercreek varsity job for the 1988-89 season. “(And) The caliber of the kids that we’ve had continues to get better because they’ve played more organized, better organized soccer.”
Same goes for basketball and girls soccer.
But here’s another way to chew on the numbers. The Beavercreek girls have three state championships. Neither soccer team has one yet. So taking away one loss each season to account for a tournament loss, Popp has averaged around 2.3 regular-season losses per season at Beavercreek, while Guiliano has averaged around 2.5 losses, and Zink around 4.5 losses. Take away the 36 losses Zink’s first three teams had, and he’s down to around 3.7 per season.
That’s pretty good.
Zink, a Beavercreek native, had applied for the girls job and the boys sophomore job. Warner offered him the girls job because the other applicant was only interested in the boys job.
“I said, ‘I’d rather take the boys,’ ” Zink admitted. “(But) for (Warner), yes I did it. Who would have known 41 years later I’d still be doing it.”
Zink’s first three seasons were 7-6, 3-11 and 1-19.
“I didn’t start out very good,” Zink said. “Back then it wasn’t near like it is now. Nobody even cared. They just wanted somebody to coach it. Now you come into a school and your first three years you go 11-36, they might be looking for somebody else. Back then it was just starting, there weren’t a whole lot of expectations.”
But that third team had potential and a lot of youth, with three sophomore starters. The next season the Beavers went 12-7 and by the time those sophomores were seniors, they put together a 17-6 record.
“That kind of got the ball rolling there,” Zink said. “I don’t think it’s anything I did. I think we started winning, and there’s interest … more and more girls started to get interested.”
The boys program was pretty big back then and flourished with the Beavercreek Stars youth teams. In the mid 1990s, Zink said the Stars began girls teams, which also helped bring in more players.
Then the Beavers became the premier program in the area and from the early 1990s until the most recent state title in 2003, Beavercreek rarely lost in the regular season. And the Beavers were regulars in the regional tourney.
“We went through a pretty long streak there,” Zink said. “To do it for 20 years or more, that’s pretty good. You get a great class and with those four years you win a bunch of games.”
But there was never any fall off after a talented class graduated. Amanda Reese helped the Beavers win their first title in 1995. She graduated, but the Beavers were back in the final four the next year. Other great players like Amber Miller, Stefanie Miller, Emily Williams and Alison Bales came and went but the Beavers were always ready the next season.
“That was what I was most proud of,” Zink said. “You just don’t see that (now). You see cycles of it. You have some lean years in there too.”
In all, Zink has 22 Western Ohio League and Greater Western Ohio Conference titles, 17 district titles, six regional titles and the aforementioned three state titles. The other three losses in the final four were to the eventual state champ.
But Zink throws the credit everywhere but on himself.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to be at Beavercreek and we’ve been fortunate enough that they have continued to retire us to give us that opportunity,” Zink said.
The “we” means Zink and his cadre of assistants.
“I can’t say enough about (assistant coach) Dick Orr,” Zink said. “He’s been with me for 30-plus years. He’s meant so much to the program. He’s as instrumental in this program as I am.”
Zink also singled out former Creek coaches Norm Ashworth and Larry Holden, who was an ultra-successful boys coach.
“I probably learned more basketball from (Holden) than anybody,” Zink said. “Especially Xs and Os. Larry never once said ‘No, I’m not going to help.’ “
Players make the program
Popp, who grew up near Beavercreek High School, has enough wins just with the Beavers to be in the top 10 all time. He has 10 GWOC titles, six district titles and an appearance in the state final four in 2004.
The Beavers were two wins from the final four this past fall.
Popp obviously knows what he’s doing as coach.
But as the overused cliche goes, it’s not about the Xs and Os, it’s about the Jimmys and the Joes. While game-planning and strategies are integral in any sport, a coach can only do so much to prepare a team. The rest is up to the players.
“When I look back over it, its amazing how time does fly and add up at the same time,” Popp said. “When I think back of each and every game, it’s about the players, it’s about the student athlete.”
Popp said the athletes have always been the focal point, but in reality there are myriad reasons why he has been so successful at Beavercreek. The numbers game has helped immensely.
“I felt we would do well because of the quality of student athletes that would come through the system. Since I’ve been there, and even before, we’ve been able to field three teams. We’re able to keep, each season, about 60 student-athletes involved in the program,” Popp said.
In addition to the varsity team, there are two reserve teams, which are vital, according to Popp.
“You need to really also concentrate on the value of your JV team,” Popp said. “I always tried to make sure I concerned myself with every player in the program, in how they are progressing. To me, its always about a program, more-so than an individual team.”
When reserve teams are successful, that often times carries over to the varsity team, whether a few players move up each year, or a whole group advances.
Since 2005, Beavercreek has failed to win at least 12 games, averaging 14 wins a season. There are 16 regular-season games and roughly seven or eight tournament games, if a team makes it to the state finals.
That’s a consistency few programs can boast.
“One of the things that we rely on heavily is I’ve always had a very good coaching staff,” Popp said. “The dedication and the commitment that the assistant coaches have throughout the program … assistant coaches are extremely valuable. Extremely important.”
There is also tremendous support from the athletic department and the high school administration.
“(That support) is also something that gives you the confidence to do you job and to help the student athletes excel as well,” Popp said.
Popp began his varsity coaching career in 1989 when he took over the Bellbrook program. He moved to Wayne in 1994 and started in Beavercreek in 1999.
Smorgasbord of success
For Guiliano, who came to Beavercreek in 1986 and spent one year as the reserve coach and another as the junior varsity coach, there have been a multitude of things contributing to those 391 wins.
It’s been a never-ending buffet of success.
“We haven’t had a major turnover of coaches that have been with me,” Guiliano said. His son Jason Guiliano has been an assistnat since 2000 and Maggie Geilenfeldt has been with with the team since the early 2000s as well.
Guilianio has worked under five athletic directors and has received nothing but “excellent support” from all five. And the Sidekicks organization supported the program in every way possible, especially by providing equipment that the school budget doesn’t cover.
“It’s a little bit of this, little bit of that,” Guiliano said.
The common denominators — obviously — have been Guiliano coaching and the Beavers winning.
Guiliano’s JV team went 17-0-1, the first undefeated team in program history, which dates back to 1974. He took over the varsity team for the 1988-89 season and has had just two non-winning seasons: 1992-92, when the Beavers went 7-9-2; and the 1996-97 season, when the Beavers were 7-7-5. Guiliano-coached teams have lost in the first round of the tournament just once and they have averaged around 14 wins per season.
Beavercreek players know how to win.
“That says a lot about the attitude of the kids,” Guiliano said. “I can’t say it’s all been me.”
Guiliano can take credit for making adjustments in the program based on the student-athletes and for making sure the players know what to work on for the following season.
“Every year we do a pretty good evaluation of the kids we have,” Guiliano said.
There are consistently 75-100 trying out each year to make the varsity or one of two reserve teams. The Beavers have a distinct advantage as some schools don’t have three teams anymore. That keeps more players in the system.
“It’s a competitive program,” Guiliano said. “Our pool of players have been pretty good.
Better competition makes for better players. There have been a handful of freshmen make varsity, and there have been a few All-Americans as well, most recently Tristan Lyle.
“It brings better players into the system,” Guiliano said.
Better players, and smarter players as well. Guiliano described his team’s GPA as “excellent” and mentioned one current player who has a 4.6 GPA.
“We’ve been blessed with kids who have knowledge and skill of the game,” he said. “It’s not just the coaching staff.”
In all, the Beavers have won or shared the league title 10 times in the last 14 seasons.