Coach Z: A Path to Basketball through ROTC

on 2023-11-08 16:21 PM

As a part of the Arkansas Athletics Department since 2011, Matt Zimmerman, affectionately known as “Coach Z” was a student manager under Nolan Richardson from 1986 to 1990.

He had always loved basketball, but it was his father’s military background that helped pave the way to college.

“I did learn for the first time in my life there was a whole lot more going on than Razorback Basketball,” says Zimmerman as he sits in the ROTC building on the university’s campus.

“My dad had been active duty in the Army for 22 years. I had three of my uncles served in World War 2. My dad served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War, so I had a lot of history with people in the military, mostly in the army,” Zimmerman remembers, “As I started approaching my senior year, I didn’t know what basketball, where it was going to take me, I started hearing all about ROTC scholarships.”

After going through the rigorous application process, Zimmerman received a four-year ROTC scholarship. Schools across the country came calling but there was only one place he wanted to go.

“My dream was come to Arkansas, walk on and play basketball, and ROTC was going to give me that. They were going to pay for my school and then I was going to walk on. Well, that part didn’t quite work out, but I got to be a part Razorback basketball team, and it helped get to where I am now.”

Juggling school, ROTC, Arkansas basketball and a fraternity, after four years of college it was time to face the reality of what was ahead of him.

“January or February of my senior year of college I found out I was a going to be Active Duty for five years. There was no more thinking about being coaching basketball or staying with the Razorbacks or going to coach high school.”

Zimmerman would go on to earn the rank of Captain. He served with the 1st Infantry Division from 1991-95. He says the five years of active duty were good for him, and taught him a lot of lessons he then used once he got back to his first love, basketball.

A few years after coming back to Arkansas as an assistant coach under Mike Anderson, Coach Z took the Men’s team back to his old stomping grounds for a team bonding exercise.

“I think Bobby Portis was coming in as a freshman, Moses Kingsley was here. We had guys like a Alandise Harris and Ky Madden. We had a lot of characters and a lot of good people. So we had the idea- let’s to the ROTC, and they would love that.” recalls Zimmerman.

Matt Zimmerman’s path in life was shaped by being a part of the Army ROTC at Arkansas. This building is as special to him as being a Razorback.

“To me every student athlete that came to Arkansas, one time in four years they should come through here. I think the student Athletes could learn a lot from the courage that these people have.”

(Last updated: 2023-11-08 16:21 PM)