By Michael Pittinger
Sterling (Dec. 8, 2014) – A distance freestyler in college, Park View High School’s newly acquired head varsity basketball coach Zack Orchant hung up his flippers and goggles just a few years ago to pursue a coaching career on the hardwood.
In 2009, Orchant accepted a position as the head junior varsity coach at Briar Woods High School where he helped the Falcons for two years before moving on to become the head JV coach at McLean High School.
The first-year head man will have his work cut out for him as the Patriots finished their 2013-2014 campaign with a 1-22 record. Orchant’s 2014-2015 Park View team already matched last year’s win total with a 76-53 season-opening win over Legacy Christian Academy in Sterling on Dec. 2.
Orchant – who graduated from Broad Run High School in 2000 – sat down with LoCoSports contributor Michael Pittinger to give us the scoop: inside the huddle.
Michael Pittinger: You grew up playing basketball then you went to swim in college and now you’re back here on the hardwood. How does that happen?
Zack Orchant: So I played basketball all the way up to my freshman year of high school. I got to high school at Broad Run and realized there would probably be thirteen to fourteen basketball players come junior and senior year so I decided to go get my varsity letter as a freshman and changed over to swimming.
Swimming was a new sport in Loudoun County. I was a part of the inaugural team, if you will, for Broad Run since they started the program back in ‘96. By my senior year, I was a state swimmer in all but two events. I did not qualify for states in 50-yard free or 100-yard fly, but getting to the state level certainly takes day in, day out effort.
So taking that and translating it back to the hardwood – which is the sport I have always loved growing up – makes it easy to translate. Certainly you have a learning curve in terms of Xs and Os but I’ve had some great teachers along the way, with my dad having coached for thirty years, Kevin Roller – over at Mclean and now Madison – who’s a great tactician from an offensive standpoint, and then most recently Mike O’Brien over at Mclean – who is more of a blue collar defensive kind of guy. So I’ve had some great mentors along the way.
Pittinger: It is becoming more and more popular nowadays for coaches to coach a sport they did not play at a competitive level in college or professionally. What edge do you have in coaching basketball that made you stand out as the right choice for the Park View program?
Orchant: I think just being a competitor whether it’s basketball, football, baseball, coaching something other than the sport you played: simply competing day in and day out. I was a state swimmer, I’ve swam against a number of Olympians. So being able to translate that competition and that mentality, certainly makes a standout characteristic in terms of taking over a program that went 1-22 last year.
Pittinger: This is a basketball program that has struggled as of late. What are your plans to turn Park View basketball around?
Orchant: It’s one year at a time. It’s not going to be an immediate change, you’re not going to go from 1-22 to 22-0 or 23-0. It’s going to take multiple years, multiple kids buying into a change in the environment, a change in the way that they compete, a change in the way that they approach the game.
I interviewed with the Washington Post to start the season, and they asked what the goals were, I said .500 would probably be a good stretch goal for this year, I still stand by it. You know it’s a goal that not only I, myself, set, but some of the players set in some recent conversations talking about the season. They want to win half their games. So if we can set out and achieve that, I think it’s a step in the right direction.
Do I think that were going to pull some upsets? Absolutely, I think there is going to be teams that underestimate us going in. If you look at the battle [Dec. 2] against Kettle Run, if you look at some of the teams that have graduated a lot of seniors, there’s definitely a change in momentum, and it could shock some people.
Pittinger: Even though you’ve been in Loudoun County for all of these years, you’re the new guy on the block now. What is one thing that people should know about you and your coaching style?
Orchant: I know a lot of the programs, I know a lot of the coaches: Jay Geyer now at Rock Ridge, Cory Stitzel over at Stone Bridge, Kip Shallis at Briar Woods, we have great working relationships with the community aspect. I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily the new kid on the block but definitely new from a varsity standpoint.
In terms of an edge, I’ve had different teachers than a lot of these guys. A lot of these guys grew as Loudoun County assistants and then have branched out as Loudoun County has continued to grow in terms of the number of high schools. Jay Geyer was a varsity assistant at Briar Woods, took over Dominion, and did a great job at Dominion, now he’s starting a new thing at Rock Ridge. I come from a different way of getting to a varsity level position. I was a JV coach for four years [some in Fairfax]and then made the jump to come back to Loudoun to be closer to family but still be able to do the same thing.
Pittinger: Without giving your athletes too much insider knowledge, do you mind sharing your most embarrassing moment in sports?
Orchant: I definitely have a lot of memorable moments. Competing against Inge de Bruijn out of the Netherlands, training with her was definitely a memorable moment. Swimming against Ed Moses and getting my ass kicked definitely memorable. Swimming against Tom Dolan when he was still healthy was definitely memorable.
I’m not sure I necessarily have a most embarrassing moment. There’s certainly been little moments where as a coach you have six guys on the floor, and it’s like how the hell does that happen but I don’t think I necessarily, from an athlete standpoint, have embarrassing moments.
Michael Pittinger is a graduate of Park View High School in Sterling and is currently a student at Northern Virginia Community College. Follow LoCoSports on Twitter (@LoCoSports) for up-to-date news and scores from around Loudoun County.