After going 41-88 during his five years as head men’s basketball coach at Simpson College, Charles Zanders resigned.
Zanders took Simpson to the Iowa Conference tournament twice during his five seasons but never recorded an above .500 record as a lot of dissension circulated throughout the team during his tenure.
Towards the end of the season as they team was eliminated from postseason contention, the writing seemed to be on the wall for his resignation.
“Basically everyone knew towards the end of the year when we were eliminated from the playoffs that it was going to happen and he’d resign or get fired,” junior Dillon Gretzky said. “We started mentioning it and it didn’t catch us off guard or surprise us.”
This past season, sophomore Vaughn Wilson and starting junior point guard, Chad Gutschenritter both quit for what was presumed to be playing time issues and dissatisfaction with coaching.
“Some of the guys that were quitting were hearing different things from different people on our coaching staff,” junior Leif Olson said. “We’d talk about to Zanders about something and often had promises regarding playing times that couldn’t be fulfilled. Consistency and honesty was an issue.”
Zanders had previously been at Hoover High School in Des Moines, leading the Huskies to a 4A state championship.
What looked to be a reason to believe Simpson would get a pipeline of good basketball from Hoover with Zanders’ connection did not come to fruition. Simpson players could only speculate as to why.
“I’m not sure why it didn’t’ translate,” Gretzky said. “It may have been the adjustment from high school to coaching and the differences in recruiting and coaching style.”
“I can’t say for sure but I think it was a different style of basketball at Hoover than would fit in the IIAC,” Olson said. “He applied a lot of pressure, played man-to-man and had some incredible athletes.”
Assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, Brandon Stromer, who has coached the junior varsity games as well, will take over as interim head coach as Simpson undergoes a national search to fill the position.
Stromer will interview for the position and work to get the role but any information on the likelihood of his hiring is uncertain. Players expressed having a close relationship with Stromer, being recruited by the assistant coach in high school.
“I had Stromer recruit me,” Gretzky said. “A lot of guys would like if he is the head coach, just because he has a good relationship with everyone. Everyone seems to have fun when he coaches junior varsity, but it’s not up to us.”
A loss of a coach is always tough but especially for upperclassmen looking to reestablish themselves and get acclimated to a new coaching style. Olson is no stranger to it, having his high school coach resign after his junior year.
Zanders’ resignation is only a continuation of a struggling Simpson men’s basketball program that hasn’t won an IIAC championship since 1998.
Reeling in talent from the Des Moines area will be a necessary step to continue and improve upon much like the women’s basketball team has done.
Olson referenced a need for a chance in culture and direction on the team.
“We need to have a set of expectations for what guys are doing in the offseason,” Olson said. “Every year I’ve been here I thought we had talent for a championship caliber team, we just need set workouts, weight lifting schedules and need to get guys in leagues over the summer. We just need to be more organized than the last couple of seasons.”