Ringgold names Mike Zmijanac new football coach

Wednesday, April 18, 2018 | 9:37 PM

Mike Zmijanac wasn't ready for retirement.

Eight weeks after the Aliquippa school board surprisingly voted him out, Zmijanac was hired Wednesday night as Ringgold's new football coach.

“I was not going to sit home and grow flowers,” he said, “but there had to be a right opportunity. I had a couple of other things that may have been plausible, but this was a special one.”

Zmijanac said he applied after reading Ringgold's ad in the WPIAL directory in late March. He submitted his resume, had a couple of phone conversations with school administrators and then met in person Wednesday. He said his drive from Mt. Lebanon is only five minutes longer than to Aliquippa.

“It's a good job,” Zmijanac said. “They have tradition. They have athletes. They have people who care about the program. It was the only place I considered as a head coach.”

It will be his second coaching job in 22 years.

Zmijanac owns a career record of 237-36 with six WPIAL titles and one state championship in 21 seasons at Aliquippa. He led the Quips to the WPIAL finals each of the past 10 seasons, but the Aliquippa school board voted Feb. 21 to replace him as coach.

By a unanimous vote Wednesday, the Ringgold school board hired Zmijanac to replace Nick Milchovich, who resigned after four seasons.

“This is a game changer for us,” Ringgold athletic director Laura Grimm said. “It was definitely worth the wait, and now I think our football program is ready to take off. We're already behind a bit with how late it was, but it worked out for us. There were times in this process that made it hard to see the big picture and the end goal, but here we are.”

Ringgold went 3-6 last season, but that down year ended a streak of seven consecutive playoff appearances. The team went 55-20 in that seven-year span and reached the WPIAL semifinals in 2016 and 2014.

“We want to build this program back up,” Grimm said. “One of the things I found most appealing is how he looked at our roster. He said openly that he loved the fact he was going to have a young team. They're going to be young, but they're eager and capable of learning a new system quicker.”

Zmijanac built a program at Aliquippa that was consistently among the best in the state, but said Wednesday he won't necessarily coach Ringgold exactly the way he coached there.

“As a coach you have to make an adjustment to the people you're coaching,” Zmijanac said. “There is no one way to do things. (Patriots coach Bill) Belichick aside, there's no one right way. It's the way that works for the kids and the people that you're working with.”

According to Grimm, Zmijanac discussed some names he'd like to add to his staff. Both agreed that a couple of assistants are likely to be common names from around the Ringgold district that includes Monongahela and Donora.

“(The challenge of a new school) is not knowing the people and the landscape as much as you do when you're from a place,” Zmijanac said. “You know the ins and outs of what people think and how they do things. But as far as coaching football's concerned, kids are kids and everyone wants to be successful.”

Jeremy Sellew from the Mon Valley Independent contributed. Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at charlan@tribweb.com or via Twitter @CHarlan_Trib.

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