GREAT FALLS — Reece Gliko is the most prolific scorer in Montana high school basketball history. He had a tremendous career at Highwood from 1989 until 1992 before transferring to Belt for his senior year and the 1992-93 basketball season.
Gliko holds the Montana High School Association career scoring mark with 2,763 points, more than 300 points more than second-place Kirk Walker of Darby. Gliko’s best season was his sophomore year at Highwood when he scored a single-season state record 928 points and averaged 33.1 points per game, also a state best.
After a standout college career at Rocky Mountain College and MSU Billings, which included an All-American selections, Gliko entered coaching and has made stops at the professional, college and high school levels.
Gliko was known as much for his scoring as he was for his personality. According to Gliko, his teammates loved him but opponents hated him. He would regularly engage the crowd, which made for exciting and emotional matchups.
After 10 years of living in Loveland, Colorado, Gliko and his family have returned to Montana, where he will take the reins of the basketball program at Foothills Community Christian School in Great Falls, succeeding John Freid, who is retiring after a 54-year coaching career.
We caught up with the M0ntana basketball legend for our MontanaSports.com Sunday Conversation.
MTN SPORTS: Let’s start with this opportunity at Foothills. I know it’s been 10 years since you last lived in Montana, so how did this move come about and how excited are you to get going?
REECE GLIKO: “Interestingly got a call from coach (John) Fried a little while ago, and I didn't know when he was going to retire. I knew that my wife and I and our family had been wanting to move back to Montana and I wanted to stay in coaching. And just the timing of it was great where coach Freid was looking to retire and I'm still looking to coach.”
MTN SPORTS: Have you been coaching recently?
GLIKO: “I coached most of my years down in Colorado, there were a few years that I took off but I coached at Loveland High and then a charter school that in Loveland also.”
MTN SPORTS: Could you walk us through your coaching career step by step, maybe a history of where you've coached and what sort of jobs you've held over the years?
GLIKO: “Oh, man. So it started out, I coached in a league called the International Basketball League that was in Cincinnati for a little while. Then I spent a little time at Northern Montana, actually before that was at a junior college in Washington State called Olympic Junior College. Then I came back home to Montana about 13, 14 years ago and coached at Belt for a couple of years. And then we moved to Colorado and coached at Loveland high, and that was a 5A school. And then Loveland Charter was just a startup school. So we were really tiny, like a class C school. And now here at Foothills.”
MTN SPORTS: What sort of unique challenges and opportunities does coaching at Foothills present to you? What drew you to this job?
GLIKO: “The most unique thing I feel excited about being here is that I'm a Christian and that can be shared openly with the kids. So I'm really excited about that. And another part that’s unique about here is I know there's history. I had been coming back doing camps with kids from Foothills probably 15 or more years ago. So I know some of the history, the tradition here for boys basketball because I've worked with the kids, over the last 15 years. So I'm excited. I know it's a community and a school that loves basketball. So I'm excited.”
MTN SPORTS: I know expressing your faith openly here is important to you. Has Christian faith always been something that's in your life or is it something you came to later in life?
GLIKO: “Not at all. Growing up basketball was my God. You weren't here when I was playing in high school. And if you were, you would have been able to know that I wasn't a Christian. So that change happened in my life just just after graduating from college, playing at MSU-Billings and it completely changed my life. And since that time I have been so thankful for the change that God has done in my life.”
MTN SPORTS: Following high school basketball and covering Belt and Highwood, I’ve heard the stories about Reece Gliko in high school, that you were incredible scorer who had a bit of an attitude. How would you describe yourself as a player and person back then?
GLIKO: “Oh man, you want the whole package (laughs)? One of my favorite players growing up was John Starks for the New York Knicks and he had a chip on his shoulder. And I guess that, that kind of attitude is what I had. If I were describing myself as a player kind of a Manu Ginobili or James Harden type. Not as athletic obviously, but could shoot and also score. The difference being that I could draw fouls and was not just a shooter.”
MTN SPORTS: And you played with a lot of emotion, correct? I know you’ve been pretty open that you were a polarizing and antagonistic player back then.
GLIKO: “Yeah, I was an extreme competitor growing up and maybe my older brother Mason helped with that. He was three years older and those out there that have an older sibling, you're getting beat up on every day and losing every day, you either going to quit or compete and fight back. And so I think that was a big factor for the competitiveness. And yeah, I fed off of the excitement. And at that time high school basketball in Montana was huge. Packed gyms, it was full of excitement. And there was just that energy there. And I played on some good, very good teams in high school. And people would come out to watch and just the whole atmosphere that excitement and emotion and everything fed into my personality and the way I was as a player.”
MTN SPORTS: There was a transfer in there somewhere right? From Highwood to Belt (in 1993)? I’m sure that added some spice to the rivalry. So much so, that I still hear about it.
GLIKO: *Laughs* “I’ll never get away from it! But honestly, they’re great memories. In junior high I lived in Belt but I transferred to Highwood to be in a better basketball program and at that time I was not as well known as I was when I graduated high school, but there was the makings of what was going to happen. There was already that tension and throw that in with my personality and the way I carried myself. I fed off of that rivalry between Highwood and Belt. And that extended to the entire state. When you were the number one team, you have a target on your chest and everybody's giving you their best. So there was always that hope from our opponent that they would beat us. And it just created a lot of fun memories, packed crowds, and loud gyms. Those are some great memories.”
MTN SPORTS: Walk us through the college years if you could. It was Rocky first, then MSU-Billings, and then two All-American seasons at MSU-B?
GLIKO: “So coach (Dennis) Gerke at Belt had played at Rocky and he knew the coach (Jeff) Malby at Rocky. And I wasn't heavily recruited at all. Partially that might have been the attitude that the college coaches saw on the outside. But coach Malby came to watch me. I ended up signing with Rocky, and went there for two years. Coach Malby left and it was coach (Garry) Matlock. Those were two good years. I ended up leaving there and transferring to MSU-Billings. It was coach Craig Carson who was in our conference now, incredibly he coaches billings Christian, the high school team there. It was his first year at MSU-Billings and man, I owe so much to coach Carse for taking me from one level to levels of play that that I didn't know were possible, even though I had really been dedicated growing up to practicing. And he just took it way beyond, I would have never expected to be an All-American and play a little bit after college. And he was such a wonderful guy. I just love him.”
MTN SPORTS: I imagine that's going to be pretty surreal getting a chance to face him at Foothills. Have you talked to coach Carse about what those games are going to be like?
GLIKO: “Yes, we talk a lot. Both of us still have that competitiveness, so we'll enjoy it. I am so looking forward to it. I love him and it'll be great.”
MTN SPORTS: Coach, tell me about your family. Four kids if I recall?
GLIKO: “Yup, four kids. So my oldest son Jair is a sophomore here at Foothills. And then the next oldest is Zoe, she’s an eighth grader. Then Nash is the next, he's my son in third grade and the youngest is Rowan and he is in first grade here.”
MTN SPORTS: Are they basketball players?
GLIKO: “I wouldn't say any of them are basketball nuts yet. But that’s one of the reasons I want to be in coaching is to be able to coach my kids and spend time with them in the gym.”
MTN SPORTS: What are you up to when you’re not in the gym and not coaching?
GLIKO: “Mostly just love spending time with my family and my kids. We just spent last weekend in the Sluice Boxes for a day, and that's like a dream come true. Grew up walking and fishing through there. And even just that is worth, worth moving back to Montana.”
MTN SPORTS: Back to high school for a second, could the talent have existed without the attitude and competitive drive and vice versa?
GLIKO: “Absolutely not, just from a basketball perspective, I wasn't as athletic. I wasn't tall, I wasn’t fast or that strong. I look at kids now, and I look at my own life, those factors that you maybe you look at them as negatives or detriments to my ability as a player actually caused me to find out ways to score without being able to jump high without being quick. Being more cerebral as far as understanding the game. And here's a guy I'm going against this twice as athletic. ‘Well, how do I score against that person? How do I come off this screen when they're stronger than me?’ Things like that I felt like I had to deal with my whole life, going back to my older brother, who was always bigger and stronger. And then in college, everyone was bigger, faster and stronger for the most part. And I just an incredible amount of time practicing and getting better out of necessity because without that refinement of skill, how would I have excelled? And I found that I had to do that even in those college years when I look back and see kids that are in college, a lot of them reach a certain level. And it's easy in college because you're practicing so much, you're lifting, you're doing all these things to stop really progressing on the fine skill things, just because you don’t have time. But anyways, I still had to do that because of the difference in athleticism and the competitiveness made up for some of the lack in other areas.”
MTN SPORTS: Do you coach that way as well? If you have team with some deficits, or maybe they're not as athletic as the next team, but how do you get the most out of them?
GLIKO: “A big part of my philosophy as a coach is that I want the kids to experience what it is to be a part of a team, a team that overachieved. I don't want a team that underachieves for our talent level. And that may mean we win half of our games. That may mean we win the conference. That may mean our goals are to win the state championship. That depends. But I want them to experience what it is like to be part of a team. I was only on a couple of those through my whole career where I felt like everybody was on the same page. Everybody shared the same vision. And a lot of that was with coach Carse and those experiences with him. And I want to pass that on to the kids that I coach which is a huge challenge.”
MTN SPORTS: How would you say you’ve changed the most from your time as a high school star to where you are now?
GLIKO: “I hope that the reality of Jesus Christ in my life is what comes out in what people see is the difference. He's the only one that can change a person's heart. So I hope that as people do see that there is a change from those that knew me back then to now that it was because of what he's done in my life. If you're looking just on the outside, as a casual passer-by that may have seen me then? I hope there's more of a calmness and more patience and many, many, many less outbursts of emotion.”