Zach Skrinjar has been coaching at Fox Chapel for a decade.
The Foxes have qualified for the WPIAL playoffs seven times in the past 10 seasons, including six of the past seven years. This year’s team is 16-8 and advanced to the Class 6A quarterfinal round. The Foxes are led by a trio of first-team all-section selections in senior guard Ryan Kerr, and juniors guards Arnold Vento and Sam Brown. Noah Marks, a senior guard, and Eli Yofan, a freshman guard, also are starters. Junior guard Will Livingston is a top reserve.
Perhaps the highlight of Skrinjar’s tenure at Fox Chapel was the 2016-17 season. Fox Chapel shared a section championship that year and finished 19-4 overall.
The Foxes were led by forward/center Jake Livingston, who has continued his hoops career at Denison, and point guard Carson Cohen, who is playing at Tufts.
Skrinjar, 40, graduated from Central Catholic in 1997 and from Point Park in 2001, and played basketball in both high school and college. He was a secondary education major in college, and currently is a seventh-grade teacher at North Hills Middle School.
Skrinjar’s career record is 142-88 at Fox Chapel, where he is assisted by Sean Devinney, Joe Farrell, Ben Bailey and Gabe Skrinjar, his younger brother.
As he waited to see if this year’s team will advance to the PIAA playoffs — the top five WPIAL playoff teams in Class 6A advance to the state tournament — Fox Chapel’s veteran floor boss took time to participate in a question-and-answer interview:
What do you enjoy most about coaching basketball?
Seeing our teams grow, develop and improve from the beginning of the year to the end. I also enjoy scouting and implementing game plans against our opponents.
What is your basic coaching philosophy?
Playing team defense, sharing the ball on offense, taking away other teams strengths. We also communicate with our players about knowing your role on the team and doing your job.
What have been some of the most rewarding aspects in your role as Fox Chapel basketball coach?
I really enjoy the little things — my interactions with the players at practice, on the bus, before games and the relationships that our coaching staff has with our teams. I also love hearing from former players who are always wishing us luck and checking on how we are doing. That means the world to us, that our former players still feel close to the program and still follow what they had a hand in building.
What have been some of the most challenging?
The beginning of the season is always a challenge due to the fact that different guys are returning from various other sports, and just getting back into to the basketball mindset. It takes some time but always works out.
What are your thoughts about the performance of this year’s team at Fox Chapel?
I was pleased with this year’s team. We overcame adversity and played our best basketball down the stretch, with younger players who gained confidence and experience through the season.
Who has been the most influential person (or persons) in your athletic/coaching career?
My dad would be at the top of the list. He always coached us when we were younger. He’s the best, and still is coaching me today. Also, coaches Chuck Crummie, Bill Shay, George Siford, Bob Rager and Tony Morocco. All were great coaches who have a part in what you see today, but more important they are all great men and were good examples for me as a player.
Although he never coached me, Mike O’Brien, our athletic director at Fox Chapel, has also had a very positive impact on me as a coach. He took a chance on a young man who didn’t have any head coaching experience at the varsity level; he believed in me, and his faith in me means so much and is appreciated.
Who was the most influential person (or persons) in your academic career?
My mom was a teacher, and always stressed academics. My two brothers, Gabe and El, also had a huge impact on my academic career.
Outside of basketball, what is your favorite sport?
I love baseball and the Pirates. I have such fond memories of attending games with my family and friends, and I enjoy the strategy and matchups in the game.
Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy swimming, working out and hanging at my friend’s pool in Oakland.
Do you like to travel? What has been your all-time favorite vacation?
I really enjoy traveling. Greece was one of my favorite trips. I also enjoy Ft. Lauderdale.
Are you a regular book reader? If so, what is the title of the last book you read?
I’m not a big book reader, more of a podcast person. I’m a big fan of “Pardon My Take.”
What is your favorite all-time book?
“On the Road.”
What is the name of the last movie you saw? …. your all-time favorite movie?
I’m a huge Marvel movie fan, but the last movie I saw was “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Do you have a favorite all-time sports movie?
“Hoosiers” or “Moneyball.”
Do you watch much television? What is your favorite TV show?
During the season, I don’t get to watch much, but “Survivor” and “The Office” are ones I try and catch.
If you could have dinner with anyone past or present, who would you choose?
What is something that people may not know about you?
I was a train conductor at the Pittsburgh Zoo when I was in college.
What are three of your favorite foods?
Aiello’s pizza, chicken parm, Uncle Sam’s steak hoagie.
What is the best nickname for a Fox Chapel basketball player that you’ve ever heard?
One of our assistants started calling Micah Morris ‘The Bubster,” and it just fit.