Oly’s Gleich set to retire at end of year

After helping turn around Olympic’s girls basketball program, his third stint with the Trojans, coach Al Gleich has decided to hang up the whistle after this school year.  - Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo
After helping turn around Olympic’s girls basketball program, his third stint with the Trojans, coach Al Gleich has decided to hang up the whistle after this school year.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals/file photo

Sometimes, life gives a wake-up call.

And when Olympic teacher Darryl Gellert unexpectedly passed away last month, Oly peer Al Gleich was one to receive such a call.

“When we lost one of our teachers here, Darryl Gellert, that really impacted me,” Gleich said. “I thought I was gonna stay a couple more years. He could have retired last year. Now he’s gone.”

As a result, Gleich, a coach since 1962 and in Kitsap since 1981, has finally decided to call it quits. Gleich will retire from his post as a physical education teacher and girls basketball coach at Oly at the end of the school year. Gleich’s wife Jan, a PE teacher in the district, also will retire.

“My wife and I are going to retire,” Gleich said Monday. “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing.”

Gleich will wrap up his most recent stint at Oly after helping the team to 18 wins, an Olympic League championship and a berth in the West Central District III playoffs after winning just 4 games in the previous two seasons.

As a result, Gleich said it was tough to leave his most recent team, but wanted to leave the program in strong shape for the next Oly girls hoops coach.

“It was hard to tell the girls,” he said. “But it’s better to leave a club that’s strong than to leave a rebuilding situation for somebody.”

At the same time, the decision was ultimately easier said than done.

“As a coach, you always say, ‘Well, we’ll see this group through,’” Gleich said. “But then you get attached to another. Just because you do get close to the kids. Having been around the sport as long as I have been, if you can see the program and the development of the kids and see they’re having fun, that’s the success you have as a coach. And that’s what we’ve had. It’s hard to leave some of these sophomores.”

Beginning his coaching career in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1962, Gleich’s history includes two tours of Germany that included coaching the country’s junior national team, a golf title from his years in Webster, S.D., and a short stint working for NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson’s now defunct Cincinnati Stuff of the original International Basketball League (which ceased operation in 2001).

“How many coaches get to be around one of the greatest?” Gleich said of working with “The Big O.”

Gleich came to Kitsap County in 1981 and spent from then until 1983 as an Olympic boys hoops assistant. In 1984, Gleich took the reigns at Olympic College before taking over Oly High School’s boys program from 1985 to 1995. From 1996 to 1999, Gleich was an assistant hoops coach at King’s West before heading to Cincy in 2000. He came back a year later as Central Kitsap’s boys hoops coach, vacating that post in 2003 to become the North Kitsap School District Athletic Director. He remained there until rejoining Oly as a girls coach in 2005.

“Basketball is definitely in my blood,” Gleich said.

In past stints, Gleich also coached golf, football and track.

That’s given Gleich a lot to look back on.

“Oh yeah, coaches tend to do that too when we get older,” he said. “We reminisce all the time.”

He said along with the kids, he remembers working along side coaches like Ed Pebble, Les Eathorne, Rick Walker and many others. Sometimes, he said he’ll still go back over old game film.

“We kind of laugh about it,” Gleich said. “You look back on all your years. You’re in coaching not for the money. You’re in it for the kids and the associations with coaches.”

As far as coaching goes, Gleich said he’ll remain involved with things like the all-state games that he’s helped formulate over the years along with the Washington-Oregon game and various other efforts.

But beyond the court, Gleich always enjoyed the opportunities afforded him from coaching.

“Coaching gave me the opportunity to go all over the world,” he said. “That was a real plus, meeting interesting people. Those are things I always really enjoyed.”

But he also liked working with his teams on the court.

“I really enjoyed practices, making up lesson plans,” Gleich said. “The total program. Making up the schedules, what to do in the offseason, how you want to play. It’s a big puzzle to fit all those things together. It’s fun and rewarding if it works for you. I really enjoyed getting out there on the floor and working with the kids.”

As for the classroom, Gleich said he’s much more enthusiastic to leave it than coaching.

“I’ve done it for so long it’s time to get out,” he said of teaching. “You lose a little bit of enthusiasm after almost 40 years. Leaving the classroom is not going to be as difficult as leaving coaching.”

With the school year nearly wrapped up, Gleich said he looks forward to spending more time with Jan. And while it won’t be waterside (the Gleich’s recently bought a home at Lakeland Village in Allyn, Wash.), he’s looking forward to taking up a new hobby — and view.

“I said hey, ‘I owe some face time to my wife,’” he said. “So we’re gonna retire, go to the golf course and take up golf. We switched from a water view to a golf course view. I enjoy it.”

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