In 1969, Ted Zuzzio experienced a Class 2A state championship as a sophomore on Humboldt High's basketball team.
In 1996, Zuzzio experienced a Class 4A state championship as coach of Baldwin High's girls. He prefers the latter.
"It's more special as a coach to see the happiness of the girls because it's a super feeling," Zuzzio said. "You see the smiles and happiness of accomplishing a dream."
Zuzzio earned the first Journal-World area girls coach of the year honor after guiding the Bulldogs to a 22-4 season, capped by the state title last weekend in Salina with a 44-34 victory over Sabetha.
Zuzzio, 43, has compiled a 308-114 record in 19 seasons at Baldwin, his only coaching stop since graduating from Pittsburg State. He's taken the Bulldogs to state eight times, coming away with the title twice -- in '82 and '96.
"My first team went 19-2 in '77," Zuzzio noted. "I sort of got spoiled that first year."
And the year after that, and the year after that ...
Baldwin finished 8-0 in the Frontier League this year, its fourth consecutive league crown and second straight undefeated conference season.
The Bulldogs' four losses were to Labette County, Topeka Hayden, Santa Fe Trail -- eventual qualifiers for the 4A state tournament -- and 6A power Emporia.
Baldwin barely survived sub-state, nipping Basehor-Linwood, 40-39, to advance to state. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs beat Santa Fe Trail and Larned before the win over Sabetha.
Defense keyed the Bulldogs during their three days in Salina.
"I have two outstanding assistants (Mike Curran and Mike Berg)," Zuzzio said. "Mike Curran has been with me for 10 years. He's in charge of the defense. I don't know if there was a team that played better defense than us at the state tournament.
"Berg has been with me for two years. He's a great addition with his youth and energy."
Zuzzio also had plenty of youth and energy on his roster. Of the 12 Bulldogs who went to state, six were juniors and four were sophomores. Mandy Mundinger was the only senior starter, joining Ann Martin, Audrey Millstein, Mary Denning at Trina Bierman in the lineup.
"The beauty of high school sports is you play with the hand you're dealt," Zuzzio said. "You have kids who like to work and are unselfish, you get some rewards. We had good chemistry in this group. There weren't any me's on this team. Our motto this year was teamwork."
Before the season, Berg told Zuzzio, "'The best thing I like about this team is we know when to have fun and we know when to work.' "
Zuzzio is also an industrial arts teacher at Baldwin and driver's education instructor during the summer. Zuzzio and his wife, Karen, have a daughter, Stacy, and son, Tony.
Stacy, a sophomore on the basketball team, is also a talented distance runner. Tony is a seventh-grader.
Baldwin fans and players from Zuzzio's past teams flocked to Salina for the state tournament.
"We had tremendous parent support this year," Zuzzio said. "The entire town opened their hearts and arms to us, which was very special. I don't know if there's a better community than Baldwin."