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Family matters led to Zornes#039; decision to retire

Roger Zornes could choose between a halfcourt set or a fastbreak. He could choose between a zone defense or man-to-man.

But when it came down to choosing between coaching and family, Zornes could choose only one.

Family.

Zornes resigned last week as the Ironton Fighting Tigers boys basketball coach after the most successful season in school history. Although it was a difficult decision, Zornes said it was the only one he could make at this time.

"It was time for me to go. A lot of things came into play. I needed to devote more time to my family. It's been 32 years and I'm tired and it's a good time for me to go," Zornes said.

"I'm sure I'm going to miss it. I want to thank the community for supporting me and these kids. It was a good run for us. It was a good three years, but it was getting so it wasn't as easy as it had been. There was a lot of work involved."

The 54-year-old Zornes said a lot of factors had to be considered. Zornes said that the health of his mother, his wife attending college, and his two sons, Tyler and Joe, playing college basketball were all taken into consideration along with a bad knee that will require surgery.

Joe, who was a three-year starter, has signed to play at Shawnee State while Tyler is playing at a Lexington, Ky., college.

"I'll be able to go watch Joe play ball and I didn't get a chance to watch Tyler in the past," Zornes said.

Zornes posted a 66-9 record during his three seasons including a 26-1 record this past season and a Division III state runner-up.

Ironton had its first-ever unbeaten regular season this past year as the Fighting Tigers went 20-0.

"Roger Zornes' record at Ironton will be unsurpassed and unequaled," said Ironton athletic director Terry Parker. "I liked his up-tempo style on offense, but his fort\u00E9 was his defensive style. Our kids played aggressive and with intensity. I hope we continue the defensive and the up tempo style."

Dean Nance, superintendent of Ironton City Schools, was thankful for Zornes' stint as the Ironton coach even though it was brief.

"I am forever grateful for the torch of passion that coach Zornes brought to the basketball program," Nance said. "I hope that passion for support of our kids continues. He'll be greatly missed."

Besides his record, Zornes brought some other accomplishments to the program including several on a personal basis.

The Associated Press named Zornes the Division III Coach of the Year this past spring. Zornes was the Southeast District Coach of the Year twice in his three seasons.

Ironton won two district championships, made two regional appearances and won a regional title during his short tenure.

On Jan. 7, Ironton routed Portsmouth 86-46 to give Zornes his 500th career win.

At Boyd County, Ky., Zornes had a 447-175 record as the school's winningest coach. His resume' included 15 district titles, seven regionals crowns, and seven state tournament berths. Since the winner and runner-up advance out of the district, his teams made 19 regional appearances which is tied for first in that region.

Zornes was also named to the Kentucky Court of Honor in January of 2004. The Court of Honor is the Kentucky High School Basketball Coaches' version of a hall of fame.

Parker said that Zornes' presence alone will be hard to replace.

"When Roger walked onto the court, his presence on the floor was intimidating to opponents and inspired our players to play with confidence," Parker said. "We came up just short of winning the state championship, but in everyone's eyes Ironton won the state because of they way the kids played. Everyone loved our effort."

Zornes said he wouldn't rule out the opportunity to coach again.

"I appreciated the work of all my assistant coaches and the kids. I'm sure I'm going to miss it. Maybe after a year or two, I may want to get back into it," Zornes said.

But whether he returns to coaching or continues in retirement, Zornes said he will always have fond memories of his tenure in Ironton.

"I appreciate the opportunity and I have nothing but good thoughts about the community. The fans have been great," Zornes said.

"I've been blessed to coach at two schools where the fans have really supported me well. I couldn't ask for two programs I've run that have had that kind of support. You're lucky to have one program show that kind of support and I've been fortunate to have worked for two of them."

In the end, Zornes said he would be forever grateful to the players.

"The kids have worked extremely hard for me and that's all you can ask of them."