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Golden Eagles make Orlich feel at home

Steve Yingling, Tribune Sports Editor

Tom Orlich started to feel very much at home the moment he arrived at Clovis West High School on Thursday morning in Fresno, Calif.

Parents, assistant coaches, administrators and players formed a welcoming party for their new basketball coach as he embarked on his first full-time coaching position outside of South Lake Tahoe since 1975. The 1992 Nevada and California boys basketball coach of the year became Clovis West’s head coach officially on Wednesday when his hiring was approved by the Clovis Unified School District.

“We have three things in common with (my teams at South Tahoe): we won, we always worked hard and nobody liked us,” said Orlich by phone while driving back to South Lake Tahoe on Thursday afternoon.



His Golden Eagles already earned a few extra points with Orlich by offering “to move us out of our (Tahoe Keys) home, but they will help us move in. They’re a great bunch of kids,” Orlich said.

Orlich inherits a team that went 28-4 and finished sixth in the final Cal-Hi Sports Division I standings.



“This is a great program that has great feeder systems,” Orlich said. “The kids all want to be Clovis West basketball players.”

Sounds a lot like South Tahoe High basketball circa the late 1980s and early 1990s, right coach?

“They’re very similar to my old South Tahoe teams. They could walk out on the court and not look real intimidating until they started playing,” Orlich said.

With a 521-177 career record at STHS, including nine zone championships and two state titles, Orlich brings more impressive credentials than his predecessor at Clovis West — Vance Walberg — left with after 13 seasons.

“Even though we’re sad to lose Vance, we’re excited to get a man with Tom’s stature and experience,” said Karen Sowby, Clovis West’s second-year athletic director.

Walberg is now the men’s basketball coach at Fresno City College. His Golden Eagles lost the 2000 California state championship game to De La Salle.

“Our goal is to try and win the California state championship … that’s something that has eluded them,” Orlich said. “First, we want to win our conference, then win a sectional title.

“I told them down here that I don’t perceive it as pressure as much as I do a challenge.”

Without a varsity assistant coach late in his South Tahoe coaching career, Orlich will have the luxury of delegating tasks and receiving input from other basketball minds. He has three varsity assistants — all holdovers from Walberg’s staff.

Walberg’s teams played a similar style to the Vikings, so Orlich won’t make too many offensive and defensive changes.

“They’re very up-tempo, they play man-to-man defense and the offensive is a similar style with four out (on the perimeter) and one in (the post),” Orlich said.

The one major difference is that Orlich will require his Golden Eagles to play man-to-man defense in the half court instead of double-teaming.

As for bringing his Golden Eagles to South Lake Tahoe for a tournament, Orlich doesn’t see it happening in the near future.

“I don’t know about that,” he said. “Next year, we’re going to be in some really tough tournaments in Southern California. I’m not sure where we’ll be in the next few years.”

Orlich, who has been employed by Lake Tahoe Unified School District for the past 27 years, will hand in his resignation as STHS’s physical education instructor on Friday. While the challenges ahead invigorate Orlich, he knows how many fans and friends he is leaving behind.

“Let them know much we’ll miss the community of South Lake Tahoe. It’s one of a kind,” Orlich said. “You can never replace the people that you’ll find in South Lake Tahoe.”


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