School district needs to find way to bring Orlich, Allister together |

School district needs to find way to bring Orlich, Allister together

Column by Steve Yingling

Tom Orlich already has one foot out of town. When his other foot follows, we’ll lose a disciplined style of coaching that few coaches can emulate, his comprehensive summer camps and perhaps a youth basketball league that delighted 400 youngsters and their families last winter.

Drive by the Tahoe Keys home of the winningest coach in South Tahoe High history and a for sale sign sticks in the front lawn like a dagger in the heart of his community supporters.

Are we so blind that we can’t see who has built and continues to build basketball in our community? After a two-year “break” from coaching basketball, all Orlich now wants to do is return to coaching. If not at STHS, then at a school that would welcome his unparalleled determination and devotion.

“Tom Orlich and South Tahoe basketball go for 25,” said STHS Athletic Director Don Borges, who began teaching at STHS about the same time as Orlich. “A lot of basketball people know it will be a loss. I wish Tom Orlich all the luck in the world, and wherever he goes, he will be successful.”

While Orlich interviews for a coaching position in some other fortunate community — Fresno is the leading candidate — this town still has time to convince him to stay. After all, South Lake Tahoe is more his home than ours.

“It’s like having a resource designed for one purpose and not using it for that one purpose,” said Chris Proctor, who coached for two years under Orlich, and was recently selected as STHS’s girls basketball coach. “Tom’s a role model for me. What I learned in the brief two years I spent with him and the type of team he created, I’m going to create with the girls.”

Informal talks took place between Orlich and current coach Derek Allister during the spring to see if they could coach together.

“It’s a great idea, but Tom can’t live with an idea,” Borges said. “Tom is driven to coach, and he has to coach.

“Two great coaches is envious. Derek coached at Division I and a high school coach like Tom and you put them together, the possibilities are amazing.”

Allister is unsure why “Operation Save Orlich” didn’t lead to them becoming co-coaches.

“I proposed that,” Allister said. “I think it was a hard thing for everyone involved. But it was a natural with Tom having been a friend for 20 years. Why couldn’t two great basketball coaches work together?”

Both coaches have strengths and weaknesses that would complement one another. Few coaches run a program with the commitment, structure, discipline and punctuality of Orlich. Allister is one of the friendliest coaches you’ll ever meet and obviously a great communicator with players. Allister’s patience and discipline were tested two years ago when he coached a Viking team that no one wanted.

“Coach Allister has made the transition really easy and he’s a really good coach,” said junior Dan Tobin. “He works with us as much as we want, and we’re willing to put in the time, too.”

Obviously, both Orlich and Allister know their Xs and Os and how to motivate players. They just need to take a step toward working together. If that means sitting down with Borges and STHS Principal Karen Ellis and coming up with a coaching resolution, then so be it. Everyone would benefit, especially the players.

“The bottom line is whatever it takes to have him be happy, the community be happy and the players be happy,” Allister said.

One of Allister’s shortcomings was transparent last weekend when a business interest kept him from coaching his club team for seven games in the South Tahoe Shootout. Orlich has regretted missing his share of Christmas tree decorating parties with his family, but he never would have missed any kind of function with his South Tahoe program.

“I’m not taking anything away from Derek, Tom is no doubt one of the best high school coaches in the country,” Borges said. “If he goes, the community will miss him, and I will feel a loss.”

Orlich is trying to move forward with his life after resigning two years ago. STHS denied him a one-year leave of absence during unfriendly negotiations over his resignation. Since then, Orlich has mended the broken fences and remained hopeful that he’d return to lead the Viking ship.

“There’s no question I’d like to coach again and run a real high-powered program,” he said Sunday after directing his 25th South Tahoe Shootout. “I don’t know what the future holds for me.

“Right now, I plan on returning to South Tahoe next year unless something comes up.”

Something will come up. Count on it. Schools up and down the West Coast surely know and respect who Orlich is, while we shamefully have forgotten.

— Steve Yingling can be reached at or (530) 542-8010.

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