Since taking the reins of the Army West Point men's basketball program in 2009, Zach Spiker has lifted the program to heights not seen in nearly three decades at West Point. The 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year brought winning basketball back to the banks of the Hudson, and now turns his attention to even higher aspirations.
Spiker earned his sixth straight 10-win season in 2014-15, joining Bob Knight as the lone coaches in program history to win 10 games in six consecutive years. He has put his name alongside Army West Point's legendary coaches since arriving in the Hudson Valley. Spiker also became the third fastest head coach to reach 75 career victories when he accomplished the feat in 160 games. Knight won his 75th game in 107 tries and Leo Novak needed 110 contests to reach 75 wins.
Spiker was one of four Army West Point coaches to win at least 50 games in their first four seasons, joining Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and George Hunter in that exclusive club. Spiker's 25 wins through his first two campaigns were the most by a Black Knight sideline boss since Kyrzyzewski, and he became the fastest Army West Point coach to reach the 20-win mark since "Coach K" won 20 of his first 36 games. His 14 wins in his first season were the most by a rookie head coach since Knight.
Spiker led his team to another impressive feat in 2014-15 as Army West Point reached 15 victories for the third consecutive year. It marked the first time the Black Knights had three straight 15-win campaigns since Knight’s teams each won at least 15 from 1967-70. Entering the 2015-16 season, Spiker owns a career record of 83-98, including a program-best 36 Patriot League triumphs.
After leading the Black Knights to the Patriot League Tournament semifinals with a postseason road victory over Bucknell in 2013-14, Spiker continued to direct headline-securing road wins in 2014-15. Army West Point collected its first-ever wins on the road against Marist and Delaware and defeated USC in overtime for the first win over a PAC-12 foe since 1964.
The Black Knights opened the year by claiming the All-Military Classic presented by USAA Championship with home wins over Air Force and VMI as part of a 5-0 start to the season. It was the program’s first 5-0 start since the 1976-77 campaign and first 5-0 start versus current Division I opponents since 1939.
The 2012-13 season was the program's high-water mark under Spiker. The Black Knights posted a 16-15 overall record and an 8-6 mark in Patriot League play. It was Army West Point's first winning record since the 1984-85 season and represented the first time the Black Knights won eight conference games since the 1986-87 squad went 8-6 while competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC). He was rewarded for his efforts with the 2013 Patriot League Coach of the Year Award. Spiker also was named a finalist for the 2013 Skip Prosser Man of the Year and the Hugh Durham Award, which is presented annually to the nation's top mid-major coach. Spiker was one of only seven coaches to receive at least one vote for the Associated Press National Coach of the Year honor.
In addition to its overall win and conference win totals, Spiker guided the Black Knights to a pair of historic winning streaks. Army West Point's five straight victories from Feb. 13-27 marked its longest Patriot League run, while four straight conference road wins from Jan. 30-Feb. 23 also represented an Academy record. Spiker and the Black Knights served notice of their ascent in 2012-13, hosting a Patriot League quarterfinal game for just the second time since the league went to its current seeding format in 2007. Army's climb up the standings was aided by the program's first series sweeps of American and Holy Cross. The Black Knights' Patriot League Tournament win over the Eagles at Christl Arena marked the first time Army defeated a team three times in the same season in 26 years.
In addition to the team's overall mark, Spiker has put his stamp on the Army-Navy rivalry. The Black Knights captured "Star" game victories in three of his first four seasons. Spiker is the first coach to take home the Alumni Trophy in consecutive seasons since a three-year run by Krzyzewski from 1976-78. He and Krzyzewski are also the last two Army coaches to win at least three Star Games. Spiker's first win against the Mids in 2010 snapped the Black Knights' seven-year losing streak in star contests, and the 2013 win in Annapolis marked the first time the Black Knights won the Alumni Trophy on Navy's home floor since 1992. Spiker’s team completed a two-game sweep in 2011-12, the Black Knights' first season series victory since winning both matchups in 1991-92.
The Morgantown, W.Va., native has guided the Black Knights to unprecedented success in the Patriot League. Spiker's six-year conference win total is higher than any of Army West Point's previous coaches since joining the Patriot League in 1990. His teams have produced such signature wins as a 20-point victory over 2011 champion Bucknell, the Bison's only conference loss that season, and back-to-back road wins at Colgate for the first time in league play and a first for the program overall in nearly 40 years.
Spiker has brought an exciting brand of basketball to West Point, utilizing an up-tempo approach that takes advantage of the team's shooting prowess. Through the first 24 seasons with the three-point shot, Army West Point's team record stood at 188, but under Spiker's tutelage, the Black Knights have made more than 200 three-pointers in each of the last five seasons, including an Academy record 264 in 2010-11.
Army West Point has scored more than 2,000 points and averaged at least 67 points per game in each of the last five campaigns, while the 2012-13 team's scoring average of 72.4 points ranks seventh on the Black Knights' all-time ledger. It was the team's best scoring effort since the 1994-95 season.
Spiker's system has produced several individual milestones, highlighted by the development of Ella Ellis. In his four seasons under Spiker, the 2013 graduate reached fifth on Army West Point's all-time list with 1,585 career points. Ellis is the only player in Academy history to amass at least 1,500 points, 450 rebounds (466), 150 assists (161) and 40 blocked shots (45). He was Army West Point's first two-time member of the All-Patriot League First Team since 1996 and captured second-team All-NABC District 13 honors in consecutive seasons, a program first since all-time leading scorer Kevin Houston (1986-87). Following the season, Ellis was invited to a pre-draft workout with the NBA's Washington Wizards.
Spiker has not been afraid to utilize freshmen. This philosophy was most evident in 2012-13 when at least two plebes started in all 31 games, including a run of three games in which freshmen accounted for all five starting spots. Kyle Wilson posted 403 points, the third most by a rookie, en route to his unanimous selection as the Patriot League Rookie of the Year. Wilson won a league best five Rookie of the Week certificates as Army West Point became the only team in Patriot League history to have three different players earn the honor in consecutive weeks. Spiker's teams boasted at least one Patriot League All-Rookie Team pick in a program record four straight seasons, including two in 2013. It was the first time in 20 years the Black Knights had two players receive that honor.
Spiker's charges have also excelled in the classroom. Nate Hedgecock was Army West Point's first Academic All-America selection in 22 seasons, earning second-team honors in 2011, and became the first Black Knight to win the Patriot League Scholar-Athlete of the Year award.
Spiker's first team at West Point posted a 14-15 overall record, matching or surpassing the Black Knights' win total in 22 of the previous 23 seasons. The Black Knights' first-year mentor posted the most wins by an Army West Point men's basketball coach in his inaugural season at West Point since Knight won 18 games in 1965-66. Its nine Division I non-conference victories were the most since the program joined a conference in 1981.
Over his six seasons, 15 All-Patriot League honors have been handed out to Army West Point players, including Tanner Plomb’s second-team nod and Wilson’s third all-conference recognition in 2014-15.
Prior to his arrival at West Point, Spiker was one of the architects behind the resurgence of the men's basketball program at Cornell University. Spiker served as an assistant under former Big Red head coach Steve Donahue for five years, helping the program to upper-division finishes in the Ivy League during each of those seasons.
Spiker was instrumental in helping Cornell's recruiting efforts that culminated in the Big Red winning three consecutive Ivy League titles (2008-10), including two with Spiker on the staff. It marked the first back-to-back league titles for Cornell in school history, and the first time a team other than Penn or Princeton copped consecutive Ivy League championships. The core group that arrived in Ithaca during Spiker's tenure went on to win two games in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, becoming the first Ivy League squad to advance to the Sweet 16 in 31 years.
With Spiker on the sidelines alongside Donahue, Cornell had the most successful consecutive seasons in school history. After establishing school records for victories (22) and consecutive wins (16), points (2136), three-point field goals made (228) and highest free-throw percentage (.761) during the 2007-08 season, the Big Red set school records for points (2281), three-point field goals made (241) and blocked shots (121) in 2008-09.
After registering a 22-6 overall record in 2007-08 (and a perfect 14-0 Ivy mark), the Big Red posted a 21-10 slate in 2008-09, closing out consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in school history. Cornell won the Ivy League championship by three games and tied a school record with a perfect 13-0 home record, extending its home winning streak to a school-record 21 games (the third-longest active streak in the country).
Louis Dale and Ryan Wittman repeated as first-team All-Ivy League selections, while Jeff Foote was named the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and was a second-team all-league selection. Chris Wroblewski earned Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors, marking the third time in four years a Cornell player was presented with the award. Wroblewski, who was a three-time All-Ivy League pick, finished his career as a member of Cornell's 1,000-point club and the Big Red's all-time assist leader, while Foote played in the NBA Developmental League and earned a contract with the New Orleans Hornets in March 2012. Spiker played a large role in recruiting all those players to Cornell.
Spiker had helped Cornell to its first Ivy League title in 20 years in 2007-08 as Cornell became the 13th team in league history to go unbeaten in conference action (14-0). Four Big Red players were named to the All-Ivy League team, including Dale, the conference Player of the Year. Dale became the second Big Red player to earn the honor, and the second sophomore in league history to capture the award. He was joined by Wittman as a unanimous first-team all-league selection. Foote and Adam Gore were also second-team picks.
During Spiker's five-year tenure at Cornell, the Big Red notched a 50-20 Ivy League record. That stands as the best mark among Ivy League teams in that time. The Big Red finished no lower than third in the conference standings over that stretch. In the previous five seasons, Cornell posted a 20-50 record in conference play.
Spiker was part of a 2006-07 Cornell club that won 16 games and finished third in the Ivy League with nine wins, surpassing the team's win total from the previous year. Wittman was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year, while Dale was an All-Ivy selection. Spiker also assisted in the development of All-Ivy selection Andrew Naeve.
In 2005-06, Spiker helped the Big Red to its second consecutive winning season in Ivy League play for the first time in 18 years. Gore was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year and joined Lenny Collins on the All-Ivy second team.
During Spiker's first year at Cornell (2004-05), the Big Red earned their highest Ivy finish in 17 years and achieved their first winning season (8-6) in conference play since 1992-93. The Big Red had two players named to the first team All-Ivy League squad for the first time since 1997. The team's overall win total of 13 marked its highest since 1996-97.
Spiker joined the Cornell staff in June 2004, returning to Ithaca after spending the previous two seasons as an administrative assistant at West Virginia University under head coach John Beilein. He helped the Mountaineers to a pair of Big East Tournament appearances and an invitation to participate in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 2003-04. While in Morgantown, Spiker was responsible for managing on-campus recruiting visits, opponent scouting, postgame film breakdown and overseeing the team's daily event schedules.
Prior to joining the Mountaineer staff, Spiker served from 2000-02 as a graduate assistant coach at Winthrop University under head coach Gregg Marshall, helping the Eagles garner a pair of NCAA Tournament berths after winning the Big South Tournament in successive seasons.
Spiker joined the coaching ranks after completing his playing career at Ithaca College.
A 2000 graduate of Ithaca, Spiker earned his bachelor's degree in communications. He received a master's degree in sport management from West Virginia in the spring of 2004. Spiker and his family reside at West Point.
THE SPIKER FILE
Hometown: Morgantown, W.Va. Date of Birth: Sept. 30, 1976 Education Ithaca College • B.S., Communications, 2000 West Virginia University • M.S., Sport Management, 2004
COACHING EXPERIENCE 2009-pres.: Army West Point, Head Coach Overall record (6 years): 83-98 Patriot League record (6 years): 36-56