Longtime high school basketball coach paves way at Buchanan, just as he did at rival

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Tom Orlich always expected to be back in a head coaching role after many years of success at Clovis West.

Still, he was enjoying retirement until last season, when he stepped in as interim coach at Buchanan High after Ed Madec stepped down as the Bears coach eight games into the high school basketball season.

“I tried to help the school out there to find a head coach.” he said. “Last year, I was kind of a babysitter.”

The Bears finished 8-17 overall and 0-10 in the Tri-River Athletic Conference.

This season is a whole different outcome for Orlich-led Buchanan.

The Bears are ranked No. 5 by The Fresno Bee and at 19-6 and 5-3 in the TRAC.

“I was just trying to figure out .... our guys have been together for 10 months,” Orlich said. ‘We’re really pleased with our progress. We have a very good group that played last year and they’re back this year.”

Buchanan High coach Tom Orlich looks at the bench during a high school basketball game against Central.
Buchanan High coach Tom Orlich looks at the bench during a high school basketball game against Central.

At Clovis West, Orlich went 311-99 from 2003 to 2016 — a run that included eight Tri-River Athletic Conference championships, three Central Section championships and six-runner up finishes, according to section historian Bob Barnett.

At Buchanan, he is 21-21 for an overall coaching record 332-120

Conner Sheets transferred from Spanish Springs of Reno, Nevada, and has provided a spark for the Bears.

Sheets understood what happened at Buchanan last season, but he sees how his teammates rallied around Orlich and is happy to contribute.

“He’s a great coach,” he said. “He’s really honest and really wants his best. He really just told us to keep grinding every day. We added some guys and some guys have really gotten better and I feel like he’s really the reason why a lot of the guys have really improved their game from last year.”

Orlich admits he never thought that this would be his next stop.

But he’s excited to be at Buchanan and leading the way as he did at Clovis West.

“I always hoped to be coaching, but I never imagined I’d be at Buchanan,” he said. “We were rivals. I’m glad I’m at Buchanan because of great people and they are great kids and I’m loving the experience.”

Without hesitation, Orlich said “I’m having a lot of fun.”

Tom Orlich looks on during Buchanan’s high school basketball game against Central.
Tom Orlich looks on during Buchanan’s high school basketball game against Central.