Lancaster Bible is pleased to announce the hiring of Zach Filzen as the 12th men's basketball head coach in program history. Filzen, who played Division I basketball at Northern Arizona and the University of Buffalo, has been an assistant coach for the women's basketball team at Northwestern (Minn.) for the past two seasons.
Filzen replaces Marshall Tague, who left the program to take the head coaching job at Columbia International. Lancaster Bible was 28-3 this past season, missing out on the NCAA Tournament but winning the Division II national title of the National Christian College Athletic Association.
Despite being only 26 years old, Filzen has been in-and-around coaching since he was 6 when he began attending his mom's practices and games. Tammy Filzen was one of the most successful coaches in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference history as she won 226 games at Carleton from 1997-2010. She helped guide the Knights to five Division III NCAA Tournament appearances and along the way for many of them was her son, Zach.
"Even though I'm on the younger side, I've been watching coaches plan practice, execute game plans and mentor student-athletes for almost 20 years," Filzen said. "My mom was a great teacher of the game and I learned a lot from her."
After playing one season at Northern Arizona during the 2007-08 season, Filzen transferred to Buffalo and enjoyed three years of success with the Bulls. He still holds the program-record for 3-pointers made in a season with 110 during the 2010-11 campaign and followed that up with the second-most 3-pointers made in program history with 97. His 222 career 3-pointers are the second-most in the program's history.
Throughout his time as both a player and then assistant coach at Northwestern, Filzen came to realize that his passion for the Lord and mentoring young men and women was immense. While assisting at Northwestern, Filzen also worked for Fellowship of Christian Athletes in Minnesota and helped with programs on the University of Minnesota's campus. It was these life experiences that led Filzen to his first head coaching position, something he couldn't be more excited about.
"I love and cherish the opportunity to develop, grow and mentor young men through the game of basketball," Filzen said. "I'm excited to start implementing a system for this team and using each player to the best of their abilities both on and off the court."
Mentorship is huge for Filzen because as a player he was poured into by several coaches, beginning first with his mom and continuing onto his coach at Buffalo, Reggie Witherspoon. Coaches have a left a lasting impression on Filzen, something he hopes to pass along to his players.
"I want to help young men become men," Filzen said. "I want them to be able to build lasting relationships, fall in love with the Lord and learn how to lead a family, lead in a church and while they're here, lead on the court. The way to do that is by walking with the Lord on a daily basis and investing in others."
Not only have the coaches poured into Filzen, but Filzen into them as they built their relationship.
"A friend of mine who used to coach with me only asks me about three players over my 16-year head coaching career and one of them is Zach Filzen," Reggie Witherspoon said. "That is the type of impact he had."
Filzen's faith, his ability to build relationships and his basketball IQ are the reasons Lancaster Bible athletic director Pete Beers is excited for Filzen as he begins his tenure.
"It's very exciting to land someone like Zach who I feel is a mission fit for not only our student-athletes, but our athletic department as well," Beers said. "He can be a difference maker because of his integration of purpose in people's lives. He is intentional and will make an impact as a mentor. He will help make these four years at Lancaster Bible College the best four years of a student-athlete's life."
While being intentional and purposeful with the players on-and-off the court, he will also take over a program that has won 50 games over the past two seasons, but is still chasing its first North Eastern Athletic Conference championship and Division III NCAA Tournament appearance.
Filzen has been in this position before as Northwestern had never been to the NCAA Division III Tournament prior to his arrival in the 2013-14 season, but had come painstakingly close in seasons prior. During the 2013-14 season however, the Eagles once again advanced to the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference final and defeated top-seeded Minnesota-Morris, 71-33 on the Cougars' home floor to earn Northwestern's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
"I'm thrilled about the chance to help these guys get over the hump and win the NEAC and earn a bid to the NCAA Division III … Tournament," Filzen said. "I thrive on situations like this one and this is almost the exact situation I was inserted to at Northwestern when I became an assistant there."
Filzen and his wife Megan will be moving to Lancaster in the coming weeks as they prepare for their first season in Lancaster.