Photos by CatchMark
Rick Zoulek has attended several Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Hall of Fame banquets. Shelby’s longtime and highly successful coach never gave it too much thought about being one of the inductees someday.
Well, that day is today. Zoulek is one of four coaches who will be inducted in the 2023 BCAM Hall of Fame during a banquet this afternoon at the Auburn Hills Marriott Pontiac Hotel.
Zoulek joins Big Rapids’ Kent Ingles, Fraser’s David Kuppe, and Schoolcraft’s Randy Small as 2023 inductees. Zoulek also is being recognized as a “Wooden Award” winner, joining Kathy McGee (Flint Powers, Central Michigan University) for that distinction.
“Kind of awestruck. I’ve gone to the HOF banquet many times. Never really imagined that I would be up there some day. My mom and dad would be very happy and proud,” Zoulek said.
“It’s not my award. It’s OUR award — my family, my coaching staff, our volunteer assistants, our players, our parents, our school staff, our bus drivers, our maintenance staff, our community. They’ve all been contributing factors in developing a successful program that is respected across the state. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this big team.”
Zoulek, 66, is a 1976 alumnus of Shelby, where he competed as an athlete in football, basketball, and baseball.
The soft-spoken, low-key Zoulek has made an indelible impact at Shelby and he’s not finished yet. He’s coached the Tigers’ boys program for 39 years and the girls program for 11 years.
Between the boys and girls programs, Zoulek has amassed an overall coaching record of 741-395. Since he began coaching basketball at Shelby in the 1985-86 season, he’s piled up 23 district titles, 19 West Michigan Conference championships, and four regional titles.
Zoulek is a family man and his wife, Cathy, has been by his side and supportive throughout his coaching career.
While Zoulek is competitive, he is process-driven. Even though he’s won hundreds of games and several different kinds of championships, his success can be measured in other ways.
It’s about helping a group of young people grow and improve.
“The challenge of trying to help a group of young men be as good as they can be. I love putting together a practice plan and going to work at practice. They keep me energized. They probably help me more than I help them,” he said.
“Every team is special to me and therefore a different challenge. I love working together with them for a common goal of being our best in February and March. It’s not about the wins. It’s about improving as players, as a team, and as a young man.”
Zoulek stays under control and you’re not likely to see him get overly emotional during games.
He is defined by humility, exhibited by his reaction to earning the BCAM Hall of Fame accolade.
“I’m not really comfortable with this award because I’ve always felt like one of the team members that is trying to help US reach out goals. I’ve always had a lot of great help,” he said. “I make good choices and bad choices. Just like every member of our team. The key is to learn from our mistakes and ‘fail forward.'”
Zoulek has said he’ll continue coaching as long as he feels energized doing so.
Seeing his players become good husbands, wives, parents, and contributing members of their communities is perhaps the most gratifying aspect of Zoulek’s role.
“I truly feel blessed. I don’t know why,” he said. “I just know I need to do my best to be used by the God who blessed me. I will never retire from that.”
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