Montana legend doing it his way for OC hoops

Reece Gliko.

Go ahead and say it again: Reece Gliko.

It’s a great name, but it doesn’t mean anything around here, not in this land of ferryboats and latte stands.

But go to Montana and shout his name. It’ll turn heads.

Reece Gliko’s a legend in Big Sky country. This left-handed shooting guard from Belt, a farm community of about 800 people that’s located southwest of Great Falls between Fife and Raynesford, was the most prolific schoolboy scorer in Montana history.

Gliko went on to play at Rocky Mountain College, an NAIA school in Billings, Mont., then transferred to NCAA Division II Montana State-Billings, where he averaged 26.4 points his senior season in 1997. The former Yellowjackets’ sharpshooter made 12 3-pointers in one game against Southern Oregon. He scored 54 points that night.

Reece Gliko.

Yeah, they know this kid in Montana. He’s not a kid anymore, even though he looks like he could pass for one of the basketball players he’s now coaching at Olympic College.

Ken Waldo, a sophomore from Olympic High, is the captain of the Rangers. He’s never seen Gliko play, but he’s not surprised to hear about the scoring exploits of his coach.

“Every time he throws one up in practice, he doesn’t miss,” Waldo said.

Gliko, 27, has a year of professional playing experience under his belt, having played overseas in Malta, an island off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean. He worked for another year as an assistant at Montana State Northern, an NAIA school in Havre. Then he hooked up with the now-defunct International Basketball League as an assistant director of player operations for the Cincinnati Stuff.

Al Gleich, a veteran coach from this area, was an assistant with the Stuff and ended up sharing a room with Gliko. Gleich, a former Olympic High coach, returned home and ended up landing the vacant job at Central Kitsap High. Shortly after, Gliko found his way to Bremerton to coach the Rangers.

Gliko has taken over a program that, until last season, had been competitive on a yearly basis in the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges under coach Barry Janusch.

Although Janusch had a freshman-dominated team a year ago, only three —Waldo, Port Townsend’s Greg Caldwell and Bainbridge’s Drew Stenesen — return from that 8-20 squad.

“That’s OK,” Gliko said. “Kids who are walk-ons display an extremely developed work ethic. They know their backs are against the wall and have something to prove. There’s nothing guaranteed. I need all the guys to realize that. It’s a privilege to be part of a team, not a right.”

Gliko’s Rangers, who open the season at home on Saturday, Nov. 17 against Grays Harbor, don’t have much size. And quickness doesn’t appear to be a strength either.

Gliko’s not complaining.

“Like I told the kids, character is more important than talent and I feel very comfortable with this group,” said Gliko, whose philosophy is old school.

“My expectations will follow along with my philosophy of doing things hard, intelligent and together. I think if we can do all we can do to reach our potential in those three areas, then winning and losing will take care of itself,” he said. “I don’t want us to base our success on wins and losses and I know society will do that.

“You open the sports page and the first thing you look at is the team score, but our success won’t be based on that as far as us, as a unit, as a family.

“There are people outside who will base (success) on wins and losses. We’re not going to worry about that. If we work hard and become the best that we can be, whether that’s 20-and-0 or 0-and-20, our success will be gauged on our effort, our intelligence and our togetherness.”

There’s no denying that he’s a strict disciplinarian. Players aren’t allowed to wear hats indoors. Their shirts are always tucked in their pants.

If Gliko’s players miss a class, it’s an automatic one-game suspension. Unless they’re sneaking them, you won’t find any Rangers sucking down carbonated sodas either. Diet and conditioning are an important part of his program.

Gliko’s been putting the Rangers through two-a-day practice sessions, starting with a 90-minute workout at 6 a.m. They’ve been returning to Bremer Center gym for another practice in the evenings, usually at 6 p.m.

“We’ll continue two-a-days until I feel we’re at a place where we’ve matured mentally and get to the point where we don’t need it anymore,” he said.

“They’re here to be a basketball player, right?”

Actually, Gliko places basketball behind faith, family and academics, but he makes sure his players don’t have time for much else.

“For these guys to have a special experience, you’ve got to be tough,” he said. “You’ve got to sacrifice. You’ve got to give up things. Things like parties or going to the mall every afternoon. You’ve got to give that up.

You’ve got to eat good food. Don’t eat junk food and give up. If you sacrifice like that, it’ll be a special experience.

“These kids have done a great job. They deserve to be commended for how hard they’ve worked so far.”

But he’s going to keep pushing.

“The kids aren’t tired,” he said. “Sometimes you think you’re tired, but you’re not. The human body is amazing. It can do incredible things. There’s been stories about people that have done some unbelievable things. I’m not asking them to do the unbelievable. I’m just asking them to strive for excellence.”

Waldo, an active 6-foot-5 center, said, “Coach pushes us hard, but he’s only trying to make us better. He wants us to be mentally strong as well as physically strong.

“He’s very serious, very to the point. He knows what he wants to get done and how to get it done. He’s not going to compromise his integrity or his beliefs.”

The extra conditioning, Waldo said, will pay off.

“There’s no other team in the league practicing twice a day,” Waldo said. “We might not be as deep as some teams, but at the end of games, we’ll be outrunning teams.”

You won’t find an assistant coach sitting next to Gliko this season.

“I know the commitment it takes to be on our team is more than other teams,” he said. “I wanted to make sure the assistant had the same ideas of what the basketball program should be like. You have to be on the same page. I haven’t been around the area and don’t really know who’s who. And to be honest, I didn’t have time to go searching for one. It would be nice to have one, but I don’t think I need one.”

Gliko’s college coach, Craig Carse, assisted Dale Brown at Louisiana State for seven years. Gliko’s since developed a close relationship with Brown. He’s developed his philosophy from those coaches, along with “going back to the root of the whole thing — John Wooden.”

Gliko didn’t come from a basketball-crazed family. “My parents don’t know anything about basketball,” he said. “But I remember the first time I picked one up and learned how to dribble. I just spent hours playing and watching. I lived five miles outside of Belt on a farm, so I was out in the country with nobody else around. I was just blessed with a hunger for the game. It was my best friend growing up.”

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