Since taking over the St. Mary's Men's Basketball program in 2005, Jim Zeleznak has continued St. Mary's winning traditions while also managing to lead the storied program to unprecedented success as an NCAA Division II member.
His Rattlers have earned four straight national-tournament appearances — including their first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 bid in 2013 — and they cut down the nets following Heartland Conference Tournament championships in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Now in his 12th season at the helm, Zeleznak has become the program's third-most winningest coach with a career record of 190-127 (59.9-percent winning percentage).
A longtime assistant to legendary coach Buddy Meyer for 27 years, Zeleznak has emerged from Meyer's shadow to make his own mark at St. Mary's. Zeleznak, who earlier in his career coached St. Mary's Softball to the 1986 NAIA national championship, had never posted a losing record in 24 years as head coach of either the men's basketball or softball teams entering the 2015-16 season.
Zeleznak and his Rattlers won the Heartland Conference regular-season and postseason championships in 2014-15, and advanced to the South Central Region Tournament for the fourth straight season and the fifth overall in Zeleznak's 10-year tenure. The veteran-led squad saw seniors Marvin Binney and Marvin Whitt earn All-Heartland Conference honors, while Zeleznak's staff won Heartland Conference Coach of the Year honors.
The Rattlers finished the year 20-10, winning 20-plus games for the second time in three seasons.
In 2013-14, after posting a 19-9 overall and 12-6 conference record on the hardwood, the Rattlers advanced to the South Central Region Tournament for the third straight season.
The team found success despite hosting nine new players, seeing transfer Marvin Binney earn the Heartland Conference Newcomer of the Year award and was one of two players to earn All-Conference along with fellow transfer Marvin Whitt.
The exciting season saw a seven-game winning streak for the Rattlers as well as five overtime games, which they won four, including victories in double overtime and triple overtime both against Texas A&M International.
Zeleznak made history in 2012-13, advancing his Rattlers farther than the program has ever gone since entering the NCAA. After claiming the Heartland Conference postseason title for the second straight season, the Rattlers earned the No. 2 seed for the South Central Region tournament. They advanced to the Sweet 16 and were on the verge of claiming their first regional crown but fell in the finals, 70-78, to No. 1 seed and host Metropolitan State University of Denver.
The 2012-13 season was filled with success as they posted a 23-8 record, Zeleznak’s highest number of wins as head coach, and a 9-5 conference record. During the season, the Rattlers went on an eight-game winning streak and ended the season with a seven-game winning streak before falling in the regional finals.
Under Zeleznak’s direction, in his final season, Rattler star Kevin Kotzur became the program’s first NCAA All-American (Daktronics First Team). After averaging a double-double for the 2012-13 season with 17.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per contest, Kotzur became Zeleznak’s first South Central Region Player of the Year and Heartland Conference Player of the Year. Posting over 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in his career, Kotzur became the conference’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. Koztur became an all-time great for the program, finishing No. 3 for career points at 2,004 and is the program’s No. 1 rebounder with 1,039 with a program-best .663 field-goal percentage.
During the 2011-12 season, Zeleznak and the Rattlers stomped their competition to end the season with a 19-9 record that saw them win their second Heartland Conference championship title and earn a trip to the South Central Regional Tournament.
Zeleznak led the Rattlers to an overall conference record of 11-4 that had them enter the conference tournament as the No. 3 seed, only to come out on top and advance to the regional tournament to face the No. 1 seed in the regional, Midwestern State University. In their first national appearance since 2008, the Rattlers nearly pulled off the upset, losing by just eight points.
Zeleznak followed his tradition of winning seasons the previous season as well, as the Rattlers posted an overall record of 15-12 in the 2010-11 season. Zeleznak and the Rattlers tied for the No. 3 seed in the Heartland Conference, with a conference record of 7-5.
In 2007-2008, he helped lead the Rattlers to the Heartland Conference Tournament title and a 17-13 overall record. The Rattlers advanced to the NCAA South Central Region Tournament for the fourth time since moving to Division II in 2000.
Over his 10 years as the Rattlers’ head coach, Zelenak has produced 22 All-Heartland Conference honorees, three Conference Defensive Players of the Year, two Freshmen of the Year and two Newcomers of the Year. Zelenak has also produced one All-American, one South Central Player of the Year and one Heartland Conference Player of the Year in Kevin Kotzur as well as six All-Region selections, four of which belong to Kotzur. Most recently, Binney was named All-Region following the 2014-15 season.
During his time as the Rattlers' assistant basketball coach, St. Mary's compiled a 531-252 record. He served as the chief recruiter for the Rattlers and coach Meyer. In that role, he helped bring in some of the top players in school history, including All-Americans Ricky Hooker and Pete Hansen.
During his time as assistant coach, the Rattlers made 14 National Tournament appearances, including four trips to the NCAA Division II Tournament and won 16 conference titles. In 1989, the Rattlers captured the NAIA National Championship.
Zeleznak is one of two coaches at St. Mary's who has been the head coach of a national championship team (softball) and an assistant coach or player on another national championship team (basketball). Zeleznak served as the head softball coach for 15 years. His teams had winning records every season, giving him a 401-184 record. During his tenure, the Rattlers advanced to the NAIA National Tournament 12 times, including 10 consecutive appearances. His teams won Big State and Heart of Texas Conference titles in 14 of his 15 years as coach. In 1986, he guided the Rattlers to St. Mary's first National Championship and was named the NAIA Softball Coach of the Year. As head softball coach, 19 of his players were recognized with All-American honors. Four more were named Academic All-American.
Prior to coming back to his alma mater to be a coach, Zeleznak was a coach at San Antonio's Holy Cross High School for three seasons. Zeleznak played basketball for the Rattlers as a freshman, before switching his focus to coaching. He holds a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's and a master's degree from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). Zeleznak is a native of Shawnee Mission, Kan. He and his wife, Jennifer, have two children, John Patrick and Kaeleen Marie.