By STEVE KRAH
With lasting influences from two coaches, John Zangrilli decided that education and coaching were for him when he was still a teenager.
It was while learning and playing for Jeff Massey (baseball) and Ken Randle (basketball) that Zangrilli saw his career path. Massey was the head baseball coach for Zangrilli’s last three years at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis, following Steve Goeglein. Randle was a freshmen/assistant coach, teacher and mentor.
Since graduating from Lawrence Central in 1994, Zangrilli has enjoyed many baseball experiences and encounters with successful diamond minds.
Zangrilli — aka Z or Coach Z since his father (Papa Z) and son (Little Z) are also named John — has coached in three central Indiana high school programs (two assistant stints at Carmel and head coaching tenures at Brebeuf Jesuit and Zionsville).
As a head coach, Coach Z-led teams went 247-81 with six sectional championships (2004, 2005, 2008, 2009 and 2010 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), three regional crowns (2005 and 2009 at Brebeuf and 2012 at Zionsville), one Final Four appearance (2012 at Zionsville), two Hoosier Crossroads Conference titles (2011 and 2012 at Zionsville) and one Marion County crown (2010 at Brebeuf in a an extra-inning game against Lawrence Central at Victory Field that Zangrilli calls the best game he’s ever seen).
Six of Zangrill’s players were chosen for the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Association North/South All-Star Series and he was the South head coach for the 2009 games in Evansville.
He has coached 28 players who went on to college careers and 18 academic all-state honorees
Among Zangrilli’s coach of the year honors include IHSBCA all-district (2009, 2012), all-North (2011) and Marion County (2005, 2009, 2010).
There has been involvement with three travel organizations (Zionsville Baseball Club, Carmel Pups and Indiana Bulls) for Coach Z. He helped start the ZBC and re-tooled the Carmel Pups. He coached with the Pups while his son, John, moved from 8U to 12U. Both will be with the Indiana Bulls 13U Silver team — dad as head coach and son as a player — in 2021.
As a collegiate pitcher, Zangrilli enjoyed three NCAA Division I seasons (1995 for Hoosiers head coach Bob Morgan at Indiana University and 1996 and 1997 for Bulldogs head coach Steve Farley at Butler University).
“Coach Farley and Coach Morgan couldn’t be any more different in terms of their personalities
Intense,” says Zangrilli, describing Morgan as intense and Farley possessing an even-keel temperament. “Coach Morgan was extremely detail-oriented. Every moment of every day was organized. It’s the first time I was introduced to something like that. It was about understanding your role on the team. As a coach, I drew on that a little bit.
“I really enjoyed the way Coach Farley created a calm atmosphere for his athletes to relax and take what they had been taught and then go out and play the game.”
Zangrilli earned an Elementary Education degree with an endorsement in Physical Education and Health from Butler in 1998. He has worked in Carmel schools for 22 years and is now a Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook Elementary School.
His first high school coaching gig was a three-year stint on the coaching staff of Carmel Greyhounds head coach Tom Linkmeyer in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Carmel lost 1-0 in 11 innings to eventual state runner-up Evansville Harrison in the 2000 State semifinals.
Born in central Pennsylvania, Zangrilli roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Pittsburgh Pirates and Penn State University. He came to Indiana early in his elementary school years.
At 14, Zangrilli worked for Jeff Mercer Sr., at Mercer’s Sports Center on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
One of the first players to log more than one summer with the Indiana Bulls, Z was with the elite organization 1992-94. Mike Stein was head coach that first year. The next two years, Dennis Kas was head coach and was helped by Kevin Stephenson, Brent Mewhinney and Linkmeyer, who was also the Wellness Education teacher at Woodbrook prior to Zangrilli.
“They were imparting all this baseball knowledge on us,” says Zangrilli. “It was eye-opening. It was the intersection of talent and instruction and we took off. We had a great deal of success.
“Dennie Kas was the first guy I played for who instilled an appreciation for preparation,” says Zangrilli. “He had a real knack for reading the pulse of his team.
“He could walk in the dugout and know if they needed to be calm or pick up the energy.”
Zangrilli was head coach at Brebeuf for seven campaigns (2004-10) and Zionsville for three (2011-13).
“Between my years at Brebeuf and Zionsville it was an embarrassment of riches,” says Coach Z.
Among his assistants at Brebeuf were Andy McClain (former player and assistant under IHSBCA of Famer Bill Tutterow at Martinsville and head coach at LaVille and Arlington who went on to be head coach at Brebeuf, Norwell and Lawrence Central) and Tim Phares (son of IHSBCA Hall of Famer George Phares).
Standout Braves players included catcher Radley Haddad (Western Carolina University, Butler University, player and coach in New York Yankees system), outfielder Jack Dillon (Butler University), Tres Eberhardt (Xavier University), outfielder Nathan Koontz (Ball State University), catcher Mitch Overley (Ball State University, Wabash College), infielder/outfielder Ty Adams (University of Notre Dame), outfielder Kevin Simms (University of Dayton, Wright State University), outfielder Stevie Eberhardt-Gipson (Northern Kentucky University) and right-handed pitcher/catcher John Krasich (Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology).
Pollard, Tibbs, Jered Moore, Quinn Moore, Jeremy Honaker and Josh Medveseck were among those on Coach Z’s staff at Zionsville.
Right-hander Parker Dunshee (Wake Forest University, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder/outfielder Max Kuhn (University of Kentucky, Oakland Athletics organization), infielder Troy Kuhn (Ohio State University), third baseman Ben Kocher (Belmont University), outfielder Drew Small (Butler University), left-hander Alex Westrick (Xavier University) and outfielder Nick Barrientos (Wabash Valley College, Northwood University) are part of a long line of Eagles players who went on to college and/or professional baseball.
John and wife Jackie have two children. After the 2013 season, Z turned his focus to teaching as well as coaching Little Z and daughter Olivia (a travel volleyball player).
When former Butler teammate Matt Buczkowski (son of IHBCA Hall of Famer Len Buczkowski) became head coach at he — and all the returning Carmel talent — lured Zangrilli back into high school coaching.
Coach Z remembers Buczkowski’s request going something like this: “I’ve got a Ferrari of pitching staff. I need to have somebody help me drive it.”
Buczkowski inherited a stable of arms developed by former Carmel pitching coach Jay Lehr.
The 2017 senior class featured left-handers Tommy Sommer (Indiana University), Max Habegger (Lipscomb University), Shawn Roop (Manhattan College) and right-handers Cameron Pferrer (University of Missouri) and Aaron Ernst (University of Dayton, Wright State University) plus outfielders Parker Massman (Miami University of Ohio) and infielder Rhett Wintner (Ball State University). There was also junior infielder Jack Van Remortel (University of Michigan).
“I didn’t plan on coming back to high school coaching,” says Zangrilli. “But I was intrigued. I had a pretty good history with Butch.
“My wife gave me the thumbs-up.”
The ’17 Greyhounds went 23-3 and won the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference.
The spring of 2021 will be Coach Z’s fifth since returning to the Carmel dugout.
Zangrilli, Buczkowski and former Westfield and Carmel field boss and current hitting coach Eric Lentz represent more than 500 head coaching victories on a Hounds staff. Pitching coach Fred Moses came to Carmel from Lawrence Central with Buczkowski.
“My role is whatever they need as any given day,” says Zangrilli, who has been a pitching coach, first base coach and a camp coordinator. The past five years, he helped oversee the Carmel Pups.
COVID-19 shut down the 2020 high school season days before tryouts (Carmel went 21-8 and finished second in the MIC in 2019) and prevented the 12U Pups from making a trip to play in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“It’s extremely unfortunate,” says Zangrilli. “It proves it can be taken away from you at any point.”
Fortunately, many Carmel players did get to play last summer. Coach Z helped Kevin Christman coach during the last few weeks of the inaugural College Summer League at Grand Park.
Following health precautions, Zangrilli says the Hounds were able to accomplish as much as they did during last year’s Limited Contact Period fall workouts.
Says Coach Z, “All systems are go.”