SALEM - After two seasons away from basketball, Roger Zeigler was ready to come back.
He spent last season assisting longtime friend Steve Stewart with the Salem girls program and recently was hired as the new varsity basketball head coach.
"Working this past year with Steve rekindled the fire in me," Zeigler said. "We have a great group of young ladies at Salem who want to be successful. I also enjoyed being back in the game, getting the opportunity to see coaches and officials that I had built relationships with and hadn't seen seen in a couple of years."
Zeigler served as head coach of the Salem girls for 12 years after being an assistant for the Salem boys and girls a combined 21 years.
"We are very excited to have Roger take over the girls program," Salem athletic director Todd Huda said. "Roger and Steve got things rolling in the right direction this past season. I am sure Roger will continue to improve the program."
Zeigler was the head coach at Salem from 1988-2000, compiling a 180-86 record with four district titles and a state semifinal appearance in 1994.
He returned to being a head coach in 2006, when he took the reins at United Local. The Eagles responded to his tutelage, going 87-26 in five seasons along with three consecutive Inter-Tri County League upper tier titles and a district championship in 2009, their first in 29 years.
The Quakers are coming off a 7-15 season and are 24-63 the last four seasons, the first time the girls program has had more than two straight losing seasons.
When Stewart recently resigned, Zeigler decided it was time, once again, to lead the Salem girls, who are losing one senior.
"Once I got to know the young ladies, I really enjoyed working with them and helping them become better players," Zeigler said. "Steve made some real progress with the program this past season and I wanted to continue that progress. I want to help the program improve."
During his coaching career, Zeigler has been recognized by his coaching peers and the media, receiving more than 30 "Coach of the Year" awards. In 1994, he was recognized as the Ohio Division II Coach of the Year. He knows what it takes to win.
"During the season, coaching is every night. You are either practicing, playing a game or out scouting," said Zeigler, who retired as a junior high guidance counselor at Salem in 2000. "Being retired, I can get things done around home during the day."
"Plus, with a winter like we just had, what else are you going to do?" he laughed. "If I wasn't coaching, I would just be sitting in a chair. This way, I am busy in the gym working with great young ladies who have great attitudes."
Well-respected throughout the coaching community, it did not take Zeigler long to assemble an outstanding coaching staff. Sarah Hamilton will return as the varsity assistant. Jerry Allen will coach the junior varsity and also direct the weight program, as he has done for Zeigler at both Salem and United. Kelly Paxson, who played for Zeigler at Salem and spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at Leetonia, will be a volunteer assistant.
"I appreciate the support and confidence that the Salem school administration, parents and players have shown in me," Zeigler said. "With all of us working together, I feel that we can make some great strides in the program."