LIVINGSTON – Current Livingston boys basketball coach Layne Glaus is trying to do something as a coach that he accomplished twice as a player: lead his team to the state tournament.
Glaus starred at Whitehall High School, where he took the Trojans to the Class B state tournament in 2005 and 2006. Glaus was then recruited to play at Montana Western by longtime head coach and athletic director Mark Durham.
“Playing under Mark Durham, he was a player’s coach,” Glaus said. “He was overly positive, instilled confidence in his guys. What he’s going through now, going through that throat cancer – being a guy that was always positive through adversity, ups and downs in the basketball season – he’s kind of treating this cancer the same way. It’s cool to see the support that’s behind him. I’ve definitely taken a lot (of my coaching style) from Mark.”
After Glaus’ freshman season, Montana Coaches Association Hall of Famer Steve Keller took over the reins of the Montana Western men’s basketball team. Keller, a graduate of Custer High School, won six state championships while coaching at the high school level in Montana — three at Opheim and three at Helena High. Keller is also in the top 10 of Montana’s all-time leading scorers as a player according to the MHSA.
In Glaus’ senior season, the Bulldogs reached the NAIA National Tournament for the first time under Keller. Now a few years into his own career as a head coach, Glaus and his players see the impact Keller left upon him.
“Probably the biggest thing is that (Keller) ran a really disciplined program,” Glaus said. “He made sure that each guy knew what his job was, and that guy had to get his job done. On top of that, he did a good job of preparing us in practice. The week leading up to a game, we got after it in practice and we were always well prepared.”
“I think that Coach Keller did a good job of installing, what (Glaus) said, discipline,” senior guard Rydell Floyd said. “I think that’s a good thing he’s done with us. At the beginning of the season, we really worked on our defensive effort. If you can’t play with defensive effort, you’re not going to get in the game. And just making sure you know your job. We have a lot of fun with Coach Glaus, too. He’ll go at us (in practice).”
Last season, Livingston went just 3-5 in conference play. This season, the Rangers have flipped the script and have a chance to clinch the Central A with a victory over Lewistown on Feb. 16. Hard work in both the offseason and practice have paid dividends.
“I’d say the big thing is all the effort and time that the guys put in during the offseason,” said Glaus. “We had guys that were showing up and getting in the weight room, and then going to tournaments, doing skill work like that. Another thing, we only lost one senior, so we have a lot of guys back and have some experience. But the big thing is the guys have worked really hard and put in the time in the offseason.”
Floyd and fellow senior Jakim Ricketts also pointed to increased dedication and intensity in practice as a driving force behind their successful season.
“Just practice,” Ricketts said when asked the difference between this season and last. “Every day in practice, every dude is held accountable. From the last year, practice is a lot more fast-paced. We really get after it defensively. Everyone just knows coming into practice that it’s going to be tough, but we go into practice looking to improve, so that’s been a huge change.”
“We put a lot of time in in the offseason,” Floyd said. “As a group, we work really good together and I think Coach Glaus is doing a really good job of making sure that we’re staying disciplined and we’re all getting our job done. And just working hard, making sure that we’re making the right play, the easy play. When we play together, we’re really solid as a team instead of playing as individuals.”
Glaus has taken on the task of leading Livingston back to the state tournament – a place the Rangers haven’t sniffed since 2012. This group was in middle school at the time. Now, they look to make their own mark on the community.
“We really looked up to those guys. It was just awesome to see those guys do that,” Ricketts said of the 2012 team. “Being in their position right now, that’d be huge for us. It’s a goal that we’ve had ever since freshman year for this group of seniors. We think that it’s possible.”
“It’d be huge for us, huge for the community,” Floyd said. “They’re rallying behind us right now. They’ve been really good for us, so I think that’d be really huge for not just us, but the community, our parents, and all of our family members.”
In order for Livingston to get to the state tournament, it will need to navigate its way through the Eastern A super-divisional. The Rangers will depend on their trust in each other and their season-long preparation.
“Whoever we play, it’s going to be a tough game,” Glaus said. “To us, it’s all about how we take care of business in practice. If we prepare in practice the way we have been all season, then whoever we go up against, our practices will give us confidence going into that game. Every team is going to be a tough matchup.”
“I think every team we play is obviously going to be well-coached and really good,” said Floyd. “I think to get through divisional, we’re going to have to come in with a defensive mindset, working hard, and knowing that every team we play there’s going to be ups and downs and we have to get through those. I think going into divisional, every team’s going to play harder, so you never know what’s going to happen. In order to work hard and get through that, we’re going to have to put together good games and play well, play together.”
“For us, we’ve just got to take it game by game,” Ricketts said. “Whatever game we’re going into, we’ve got to focus on the team that we’re playing, and focus on our jobs as players.”