Zach Prothro knows what it takes to win championships. The former Rambler forward led Rose Bud to the 2008 state title while averaging 22 points, 10 rebounds and 6.5 assists per game.
Former Rose Bud Coach Rob Welch stepped down in June due to health reasons, opening the door for Prothro. “It's exciting. I am ready to get back here and build the program back up and start our tradition going again,” said Prothro. “I hope I can give the kids a taste of what I went through when I was in school.”
Prothro played four years of college basketball while obtaining his degree at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia before delving into the coaching ranks at Cabot, where he led the senior high strength and conditioning program and coached Cabot South Junior High's seventh, eighth and ninth grade teams.
“I am big on weights. Getting stronger and bigger gives you a chance to win,” said Prothro. “As long as I have the support from the community, the support from the administration and support from the players I think the system I am going to put in, which is probably different than what they have been doing, will work. I hope that what I can do will change the program and make it successful again.”
When Prothro played at Rose Bud, the Ramblers pushed the ball, many times utilizing full-court pressure to force an up-tempo game. But, Prothro says personnel will dictate playing style and the Ramblers return some solid forwards and post players, including Tyler Mercer, Brandon Hampton and Christian Reynolds.
Cole Robertson returns at point guard and Jake Pratt played significant minutes at shooting guard.
“It really depends on personnel,” said Prothro. “We have a little bit of size this year so I think it's important for us to utilize the post. I like to get up and down the court. That is for sure. I would like to play fast but it just depends on our personnel. We might slow it down it just depends on the situation in the game. If we can play fast we will play fast but if we need to slow it down to win a ballgame we will slow it down.”
At Rose Bud, Prothro played under Coach Johnny Taylor, who ruled with an iron fist. “Of course Johnny Taylor influenced me greatly. I have the utmost respect for him as a coach. There are a lot of things I am going to take from what he did. As far as style of coaching there will be some similarities but I am sure there will be some differences too.”
Prothro also said Eric Bozeman at Southern Arkansas and Jerry Bridges at Cabot helped mold his coaching style. “Eric Bozeman did a great job with us and Jerry Bridges coaches at one of the biggest high schools in the state, so you know he does a great job.”
Page 2 of 3 - At the high school level, Prothro showed the floor leadership of a coach. Often times his unselfish nature led to wide-open shots for teammates.
With Rose Bud trailing by one with time running out in the 2008 state championship game in Hot Springs, Prothro was making a move to the basket when he was intentionally fouled by a Prescott player who thought the Ramblers were leading by one.
“I was trying to score,” said Prothro. “Because I knew we were down one. I was just going to the hole trying to get a point. Luckily, by the grace of God the guy fouled me and I got to shoot the game-winning free throws. So it was a real special moment. We were a good team, we were a smart team but at the end of the day a little bit of luck doesn't hurt.”
Prothro said he talked to one of Prescott's players at the All-Star game later that year. The player said his teammate thought Rose Bud was leading.
“He thought they were down so he fouled me, but he fouled me intentionally so it resulted in two free throws and we got the ball back and I shot two more free throws to ice it.”
Before shooting the first pair of foul shots, Prothro had to borrow a jersey because his was ripped down one side after the intentional foul. It gave him some extra time to think about what was to come.
“I went to half-court after I took my jersey off and talked to my teammates and said 'Guys, I've got to make these free throws' and they said 'Oh, pressure, pressure.'
“So I went up to the line and I thought I missed the first one but it went in and after that the other ones were easy. The first one was hard to make because there was nobody at the line. It was just me and the cameras flashing in that big Summit Arena.”
Prothro posted four triple doubles during his senior campaign, but any good team consists of more than one talented player and Prothro had a superb supporting cast, including younger brother Zeb Prothro, sharp-shooting Brad Moss, point guard Cody Smith, Nick Hensley, Will Strain and Jacob Pio, who signed with Arkansas Tech out of high school.
“Offensively everybody could score. That is why we were good. That's what I hope we have here. We have a bunch of people that can put the ball in the basket and that will open up things for everyone else.”
In Taylor's fast-paced system at Rose Bud, Prothro served as the floor general.
“Hopefully my playing days will help with coaching. It has helped my transition as a player to coaching because I was an extension of the coach on the floor.
Page 3 of 3 - “I can relate to the players because I have been there and I am still young. That experience on the floor will relate to my coaching and how I work,” added Prothro.