Oh yes it’s Orlich night — and we’re feeling right
Appropriately, Tom Orlich Night at South Tahoe High Friday was as short as a point guard, as to-the-point as a line-drive 3-pointer and as sweet as a double reverse.
And that’s just the way the celebrant, South Tahoe’s 25th-year head hoops coach, wanted to commemorate his 500 wins with the program.
“It was really nice to see everybody,” Orlich said of the coaches, players and family members who attended the brief ceremony after Friday’s division hoops win over Douglas. “Like I said: You win, and it’s a group accomplishment. I mean, I did and I didn’t. These players and the coaches, they all contributed, they all helped us win. It’s just that I’ve been here for 25 years and they’ve all come and gone.”
The night had been in the works since Dec. 11, when Orlich won his 500th game at South Tahoe with a 66-59 win over Merrill West (Tracy, Calif.), in the consolation championship of the Gridley (Calif.) Invitational Basketball tournament. The ceremony included speeches by Orlich’s longtime assistant coaches, Larry Reilly and Mike Greenfield, who joined Orlich on the bench once again Friday night, and a chance for his current and former players to recognize the coach. Supporters also presented Orlich with the game ball from the Merrill West game, a watch, and other mementos.
“I have not been around a coach who works as hard, is more dedicated, demands as much from his players or cares as much about his players as Tom Orlich,” said Greenfield, the current South Tahoe Middle School principal who coached with Orlich for 10 years.
His compatriot on the bench Friday – and through much of the same time at South Tahoe – agreed.
“He’s the most honest person I know,” Reilly said. “If he’s dissatisfied or upset, he tells you.”
Like Reilly, South Tahoe High principal Karen Ellis lauded Orlich for his ability to teach.
“He is an amazing, amazing man,” Ellis said of Orlich. “His heart is South Tahoe High School.”
Orlich appears to put the same heart into his teams. Ellis recalled the legion of former South Tahoe players who leave the program, and return to reminisce about their experiences playing for Orlich.
“It’s an esprit-de-corps thing he creates in them, that they come back and remember it as the best of times and the hardest of times, but they’re glad they did it,” Ellis said.
While the ceremony provided Orlich with the time to reflect, the Northern Nevada 4A basketball schedule did not. Orlich, though, appreciated the brief TO for TO.
“I think (South Tahoe athletics director) Frank Kovac and the administration did a good job,” he said. “It was very nice. It was well-done, and it wasn’t too long.”
The schedule didn’t leave Orlich much time for introspection: The day after South Tahoe’s 70-42 victory over rival Douglas, Galena was headed to town for an important non-division matchup. And Orlich’s mind already was on the court.
“We have a very special team this year,” he told the crowd. “I’ve been here 25 years, and we’re going into a new millennium, and I can think of no better team to represent South Tahoe High.”
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