Dzik, cornerstone of athletics

By Paul Nasella
December 3, 2004

Shawn Rice

Pacing up and down the court-side at the Dixon center is a gray-haired man wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, red tie, black khakis and black leather shoes. As he paces back-and-forth, he yells commands at the players before putting his whistle back in his mouth after shouting each time. For men’s basketball head coach John Dzik, this is just another day at the office.

“I’m looking forward to [the upcoming season] very much,” he said. “It’s my 25th year here as a head coach [and] we have a very good group of players who have been working hard trying to get better, and we are getting better.”

When asked about what the coaches are doing to help the players prepare for the upcoming season, he said, “Practice everyday, try to teach fundamental skills, try and get people to understand what we need to do to be successful.”

Be that as it may, the men’s basketball team is going into this season with the memory of last year’s playoff loss to Eastern still fresh in their minds. When asked about the loss, Coach Dzik said, “Anytime you get knocked out of the playoffs, it’s disappointing.”

However, he is not looking forward to the team’s game against Eastern more so than any of the other games this season. “Eastern has no special importance for me,” he said. “I take every game, one game at a time. I look forward to each and every one of them. So no, Eastern has no special importance for me.”

Coach Dzik’s expectations of the upcoming season as well as his players are still high nonetheless. “I expect [the team] to play hard and play smart and play together,” he said. “That’s what we always say when we break our huddles. [It’s a] reminder to ourselves that that’s how we’ll be successful. If we play hard, play smart, and play together.”

John Dzik has been coaching men’s basketball now for 34 years. He has been the head coach of the men’s basketball team at Cabrini for 25 years. Before taking his head coaching position in 1980, Dzik was an assistant coach at St. Joseph’s University for four years. He was an assistant coach at Widener University for a year and spent two years coaching at Upper Darby high school after he graduated from West Chester State College in 1972.

“I love basketball,” Coach Dzik said. “Basketball’s been really everything that has defined my career, as a person, in sports.”

His first head coaching position came in 1980 when he was hired by Cabrini College. He’s been here ever since. “My first team was in 1980,” Dzik said. “I was hired because [Cabrini College] said they wanted to bring somebody here who could build them a winning athletic program and a winning basketball program and attract more men to the college.”

Since taking the position 24 years ago, he has more than exceeded expectations. Since 1980, he has amassed the all-time winningest Division III basketball program record in terms of winning percentage. Dzik has an overall record of 454-192. He also coached Cabrini to 15 Conference Championships, 14 20-win seasons and 11 post-season Tournament bids. Just recently in 2002, John Dzik took Cabrini to the NCAA Division III Sweet 16.

When asked about retiring any time in the near future, Dzik said, “I don’t have any plans right now. I take things a day at a time.”

“It’s like Joe Paterno. They’re always asking him when he’s going to retire,” the coach said. “I’m a little too young to retire. I’m not as old as Joe Paterno. Joe’s, I think, 77? Well, I won’t be 77 years-old for another 23 years. So maybe I’ll coach another 23 years like Joe Paterno. That would be something, wouldn’t it?”

Off the court, John Dzik has accomplished much as well. He is responsible heading the creation of the Pennsylvania Athletic Conference. “Pennsylvania Athletic Conference was kind of a dream of mine,” he said. ” I spent about two years trying to organize small colleges in the area to come together and form a conference. The original idea was a Catholic college conference but when we got people around a table, we didn’t have enough to form a conference. So, it adjusted to the PAC, which included schools that did not have a Catholic heritage.”

Since its inception, Dzik has been very pleased with its results. “It’s turned out to be everything that I had envisioned and even more” he said. “I’m very proud of it. I’m very pleased that it has turned out to be such an outstanding league.”

He is also responsible for making the athletic program at Cabrini what it is today. It can be contributed to the efforts of John Dzik, as well as the athletic department and Cabrini College itself that the athletics program has greatly grown in size and stature among the NCAA and PAC throughout the years. Dzik said, “I would like to think that when people look back on the contribution that I made here, that people would think that, ‘Yes, John Dzik did a good job in helping to build the athletic program here.'”

In 2003, Dzik was promoted to the position of Special Assistant to the President for Athletic Advancement. When asked about what the position entails, Dzik said, “It’s a friend-raising and fund-raising capacity where we look to make sure people are aware of our athletic program, participatory in it in terms of being aware of what our needs are.”

“I look as my main goal to make a reconnection between our athletic alums, our alums in general and our athletic program at the college. We haven’t had any real initiatives since this position has been created or before this position that would reach out to that group as it would relate to athletics. So this position has the opportunity to reach out to that constituency and get them involved in helping the athletic program continue to prosper and grow,” he said.

When asked about how his experience at Cabrini College has been over the last twenty years, Dzik said, “I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Posted to the web by Shawn Rice

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Paul Nasella

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