Orlich keeps on winning | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Orlich keeps on winning

Steve Yingling, Tribune sports editor

Although Tom Orlich is living among unfamiliar faces, the former South Tahoe High coach is taking his boys’ basketball team to familiar places — the postseason.

Orlich, who coached the Vikings from 1975 through 2000, has adjusted nicely in his first season at Clovis West High in Fresno, Calif. The Golden Eagles enter the California Interscholastic Federation Division I playoffs tonight on an eight-game winning streak.

Clovis West takes a 20-7 record into a second-round game against South out of Bakersfield. Orlich’s Golden Eagles, who shared the Tri City Conference title with Madera, received a first-round bye.

“I’ve really missed it,” said Orlich, who took a break from coaching the past two seasons to help retool youth basketball in South Lake Tahoe. “The competition is really good. It’s even better than it was in Las Vegas.

“I’ve had to make some adjustments in our defense, but it’s been really fun and I’m really re-energized and loving what I do.”

Orlich’s future looks promising in Fresno because of the impressive feeder system that is in place.

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“It’s like running a corporation,” Orlich said. “We just finished our youth program with 1,000 boys in it. We have an AAU program in the fall for fourth- through eighth-graders and there is a youth (kindergarten) through sixth and junior hoopers sixth through eighth. It’s pretty intense.”

The passion Orlich has for the game only subsided, it never left him. His new team discovered that quickly.

“We meet in the morning an hour before school and work out in a weight-training class every day,” Orlich said. “The kids work very hard and they take athletics and academics extremely serious.”

Last week, a contingent of South Shore residents, including former assistant Larry Reilly, STHS Athletic Director Don Borges and previous STHS AD Frank Kovac, watched Orlich in action at Clovis West.

“The greatest compliment I can give him is he made the adjustment,” Reilly said. “He kept their system. His thinking was if he would have changed 80 percent of (their philosophy), there may have been some problems.

“Tom could take his (opponent’s) kids or his players and make them into a good team.”

Reilly coached with Orlich from 1988 until the late 1990s. After a break from coaching to tend to his duties as Whittell High’s then-athletic director, he rejoined his friend during Orlich’s final season at STHS in 1999-2000. That team won the regional title and advanced to the state semifinals.

The former STHS assistant watched in awe as Orlich’s team raced up and down the court without applying any full-court defensive pressure last week. Under CIF rules, teams must shoot in 35 seconds, encouraging transition basketball.

“He’s made a great adjustment to their offensive abilities,” Reilly said. “They can score 80-90 points a game easily.”

The visit from his friends of the past brought back memories from the quarter of a century Orlich spent in South Lake Tahoe.

“Someone is always coming by to say hello,” Orlich said. “I’ll always have Tahoe in my blood. I have enough memories to last me a lifetime, but I’ve moved on and I’m having fun.”

His season can become more enjoyable if his Golden Eagles continue to play the way they have over the past six weeks.

“We’re all on the same page and everybody knows their roles,” Orlich said.

Should the Golden Eagles win Friday, they will play host to a semifinal game Wednesday.

— Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or syingling@tahoedailytribune.com