Sandwich resident John Tzimorangas was in Hanover recently when he heard someone yell “Hey, Coach!” from behind. The longtime basketball coach instinctively responded, turning around only to find the yelp was, in fact, for him.
It was one of Tzimorangas’s former players from his AAU South Shore Warriors basketball team, who currently plays hoop for Bridgewater State University. They chatted briefly, but what really stuck with the head coach was how after all these years, his players still see him as “Coach.”
“I’ll have players come back and tell me how much they liked playing for me,” he said. “They respect the fact I’m in it for them. It’s a nice thing to be recognized for.”
His former players aren’t the only people taking notice of Tzimorangas’s coaching prowess.
The Positive Coaching Alliance selected the basketball coach for exemplifying the Double-Goal Coach model. Per the PCA website, the award is given to coaches “who strive to win while also pursuing the even more important goal of teaching life lessons through sports.” The Brookline native, who played at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, was nominated by former players and parents of players from the Warriors’ team—which consists of players he’s coached since the 6th grade.
“I’ve been coaching kids for almost 20 years. To have someone nominate you and people write letters of references is humbling,” Tzimorangas said. “It’s great to be recognized. That’s not what we do it for, but to hear from players and parents is amazing. I look at it and say I love what I do and wouldn’t do it any other way and to be recognized for this is humbling.”
With a self-described “old school” approach, he tells his students from the start of the season that his basketball team is not a democracy: it’s a dictatorship. He has high expectations for his players, but balances that with a touch of realism. He’ll tell his team that if they want to make the NBA Hall of Fame, a mandatory shooting percentage is roughly 50 percent.
“So that means you’re missing half the time you shoot,” he explained. “At the age of 12, 13 or 14 years old, it’s all about confidence. You can’t get too down on yourself.”
Part of his success is rooted in having players—and parents of players—who are willing to commit to the sport. He’s sent teams to AAU nationals twice while another won a state championship. And another team, which included current Sandwich boys’ basketball starters Chris Cronin and Colby Leighton, went 101-23 in a three-year span.
Another asset is to know what buttons to push for each individual and push them at the right times.
“You can push kids who can be better, but you have to look to see what buttons to push,” he said. “You don’t want to lose them. Coaches have to understand the fine line there. The big thing for us as coaches is we have to recognize if we want to get the best out of our players, we have to know how each one responds to coaching.”
Tzimorangas also coaches a 7th grade travel team in town while also coaching the Blue Knights boys’ basketball team during the Hyannis Youth & Community Center’s high school summer league.
There were 1,500 coaches in the country who were nominated for the PCA award; from there Tzimorangas found himself in the group of 104 finalists for the National Double-Goal Coach Award, with the winner being announced this month. If he’s selected, he’d receive the award April 27 in Santa Clara, California.
“Just to be mentioned in New England, where I’ve done most of my work, is terrific. Anything after that is even better,” Tzimorangas said.