Sports

Gleich begins rebuilding process at CK

Welcome to a coach’s nightmare. It’s time to make your final cuts and you’ve got to tell some seniors who were good enough to make the team last season that you’re going with some younger players.

That was the case this month for Al Gleich, the veteran basketball coach who is now running the Central Kitsap program.

“It’s always tough coming in new to make those decisions,” Gleich said, “but I thought for the welfare of the program it would be better to start with some younger kids and develop from there.”

Gleich, 57, expressed his sentiments prior to the tryout sessions, telling the seniors that if they weren’t starters or among the first reserves off the bench, that he’d probably go with younger players.

“In the past I tried to keep out of loyalty a number of seniors, but it always backfires on you,” Gleich said. “Even if they’re good practice players, by the end of the year, it’s not a lot of fun to sit on the bench as a senior.

“I also cut some juniors who I thought wouldn’t make it as seniors because of our strong sophomore class. It’s tough making decision, but you have to look out for the next couple years also.”

Gleich’s inherited a team that was 4-16 a year ago under Tim Dower, who stepped down at the end of the year. CK won just two Olympic League games, and those were against Class 2A Klahowya.

Gleich did keep five seniors: 6-2 guard Mike Malala, a returning starter who figures to be a mainstay; 6-2 Brad Mader; 5-10 guard Kevin Van Hook; 6-5 Chad Larson and 6-3 Greg Stewart, a transfer who’s impressed Gleich with his ability to run the floor.

Juniors comprise the rest of the squad, including returning starter 6-3 Aaron Brien, 5-11 guard Dwyane Thibodeaux, 6-5 Lukas Henne, 6-4 Nick Hoisington and 6-Marcus McKay.

Gleich is no stranger to West Sound basketball. He was head coach at Olympic College a year before taking over at Olympic High from 1985-95. He assisted at King’s West four years before spending last season as an assistant with the Cincinnati Stuff of the International Basketball League.

“My philosophy’s the same as it’s been for years,” Gleich said. “We’ll look for the opportunity to push it, and try to get the good, early shot.”

He likens this team to his 1993 Olympic High squad that reached the state tournament.

“We have the capability of handling the ball pretty good,” he said. “We’re not real big, but we can do some things to spread the floor and take advantage of what we do have.”

Strengths, he said, include the backcourt tandem of Malala and Thibodeaux.

“They can handle it and both are strong kids,” Gleich said. “We’ve also got some decent shooters in McKay, Brien and Van Hook.”

He likes the potential of his inside players, but none, other than Brien, have much varsity-level experience. “We have decent size, but they’re tweener-type kids,” Gleich said. “They’re more finesse than power.

“We’re not overly quick, so we’ll just have to play really smart basketball and play to our strengths,” Gleich said.

Gleich has stopped wearing his trademark blue-and-white warm-ups, and admitted that it was a little strange coaching at CK after spending so many years coaching and teaching physical education at Olympic.

“Yeah, it’s different, but I’m enjoying it,” said Gleich, who’s working as a substitute teacher in the CK School District. “Both schools have a different makeup. I like the facilities. They have a little team-room and coaches’ office, which is nice. I’ve got a good assistant in Murray Webb and (long-time friend and veteran coach) Jim Zinter will help out when he can.

“I just wish we had a couple more weeks to prepare for the first game. It’s difficult coming in new, putting in a new system.”

The Cougars also have a difficult schedule. Central played at Olympia on Tuesday, Nov. 27 and goes to Timberline on Thursday, Nov. 29. CK’s Narrows crossover games are Wednesday, Dec. 5 at Wilson and Friday, Dec. 7 at home against Foss, two title contenders in the Narrows Bay Division.

They’ve also got away games with Curtis (Dec. 22) and Lakes (Jan. 2), in addition to playing at the Sumner Tournament with Blanchet and White River on Dec. 28-29.

“We don’t have a breather at all,” Gleich said.

COUGARS AT A GLANCE

Coach — Al Gleich (1st year).

Last year — 4-16.

Returners — Mike Malala, sr., 6-2, G: Brad Mader, sr., 6-2, P; Dwyane Thibodeaux, jr., 5-11, G; Lukas Henne, jr, 6-5, P; Aaron Brien, jr., 6-3, F; Nick Hoisington, jr., 6-4, F/P.

Newcomers — Kevin Van Hook, sr., 5-10, G; Greg Stewart, sr., 6-3, F/P; Chad Larson, sr., 6-5, P; Marcus McKay, jr., 6-0, G.

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