Longtime Coach Glen Reither headed to Hall of Fame
By John Bernhardt
For Glenn Reither, life is all about teamwork. And, the best team that the long-time Delaware County league coach has ever had is his partnership with his forever sweetheart, his wife Jackie.
Jackie will be at Glen’s side on Saturday, June 1 when the affable former high school and college teacher and coach is inducted into the SUNY Delhi Athletic Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame ceremony will take place at the Clark Field House from 3-5 p.m.
“Thank God for Jackie,” a grateful Reither praised at the conclusion of a long interview. “She’s been there with me, offering guidance and support every step of the way.”
The Reither team formed when Glen and Jackie met and fell in love as students at Ithaca College. Glen and Jackie found their way to Delaware County as part of an interview process that began in 1958 when the Reither team sought jobs at South Kortright.
Teaching jobs were tough to find at the time, and the late ’50s were a time when schools discouraged hiring couples on the same staff. SK offered the young Reither team dual positions wanting Glen as a PE teacher and coach, and Jackie as a reading teacher, shared between SK and Stamford.
Not the right fit
After some difficult soul searching, Glen and Jackie turned down the SK invite.
“Like me, Jackie was trained in physical education,” Reither explained. “The idea of working as a reading teacher didn’t appeal to Jackie. She wanted to teach P.E. and coach, too.”
Following their hearts proved to be Margaretville’s good fortune when Prof. Shaver gave the young Reither team a call and invited them to interview for a pair of PE openings at MCS. The Reither team had impressed the district chief in South Kortright. He knew Margaretville needed two PE teachers, called Shaver and suggested he give the Reithers a look. “We couldn’t have located Margaretville on a map when we got Prof. Shaver’s call,” laughed Reither.
Wore many hats
The Reither team did everything at Margaretville during those early years. Glen was the athletic director, taught PE and coached every boys’ sport. Basketball was big at the time in Delaware County and Glen coached the MCS varsity, junior varsity and junior high teams.
Jackie worked with Glen building the PE program and shared a similar athletic load as her husband, although high school girls’ sports were not yet fully developed at that time.
“We couldn’t wait to get teaching. We knew how lucky we were to find jobs at the same school, and we did everything,” Reither remembered. “We chaperoned events, opened the gym at night, on the weekends and in the summer. MCS was the focal point of our lives. That’s the way it was for everybody back then.”
Throughout the early 1960s Reither’s MCS teams were noted for their hard-nosed play. Perhaps the most notable championship the Blue Devils won was an overtime, sudden death soccer Sectional Final over Cincinnatus.
In those days the Section IV soccer sectional championship was an open class. The big and small schools challenged each other for a singular championship. Reither and his Blue Devils, guys like Doug DeSilva, Gary Atkins, Donnie Ruff, John Huggins, Gene Fix and George Vinning, were expecting to battle Ithaca High School in a classic Big School vs. Small School championship tilt. Cincinnatus upset Ithaca setting the stage for the MCS title.
But, Reither’s favorite sport was baseball. He remembers a young freshman Pete Palen who hit .358 in his first varsity season, and Gene Fix was a pitcher who could hit the ball a country mile.
Reither’s association with SUNY Delhi began when the MCS coach met Bob Brown, the Father of Athletics, the SUNY Delhi Athletic Director and coach of everything, at Delhi. The two coaches met at a clinic at Kutcher’s Country Club. Both Ithaca alum, Reither and Brown hit it off immediately. Each spring the Delaware County coaching duo would spend a weekend together at Kutcher’s learning coaching strategies and talking sports. Brown surprised Reither offering him a position on the SUNY staff. At first Reither turned him down, but when Brown came back with the offer again in the spring of 1965, Reither accepted.
For Reither, his work at Delhi at first was a lot like his work at MCS. Reither was the coach of the Bronco men’s soccer and baseball teams, taught P.E. classes and helped operate a topnotch intramural program. “As a matter of fact our intramural program was too good,” laughed Reither. “Some of the best athletes chose to play intramurals rather than play on some of our teams.”
And MCS had prepared Reither well. To say SUNY Delhi’s coach was hands-on would be an understatement. Reither was everywhere. Reither went into the dorms chatting with kids and putting up sign-up sheets and scoured the PE classes and intramural venues in his search for athletes. “Some of my best players had never even played sports in high school.” Reither remembered.
A lot of Reither’s recruits were local kids. As a former coach and a practicing sports official in Delaware County, Reither maintained an active local network. The coaches knew who he was. The parents knew who he was. The high school athletes knew who he was. And SUNY Delhi became a part of an Ithaca College network with tentacles that stretched across the county.
Although he would coach three men’s sports during his tenure at Delhi, baseball was always Reither’s favorite game. Reither’s tactics as a baseball coach defined the home field advantage. SUNY Delhi’s baseball field was down by the American Legion at the time. An old horse track adjoined the field on the outfield side. There was no backstop.
Reither’s teams always had pitchers who pounded the strike zone and catchers trained to prevent pitches from getting behind them. “When teams came to play us they would go crazy,” Reither remembers. “Where’s the backstop they would holler. It always got in their heads which gave us a big advantage.”
Everything on Reither’s SUNY Delhi field was in play. The centerfielder had to leap over a four-foot high railing that bordered the old racetrack chasing a long hit ball. Reither’s centerfielders could have been high jumpers on a track team. A roadway ran along the field off the first base side. Of course, Reither kept it in play
And, Reither would never cancel a scheduled baseball game. “It was tough enough to get anyone to want to come to the Catskills to play baseball. I knew if they made a four-hour bus trip and didn’t play a game they would never come back,” explained Reither.
If it rained his players were at the field at 6 a.m. with shovels and rakes in hand digging trenches to funnel the water off the field and working the base paths. Reither drove an old 1949 Flatbed Ford truck. Reither and his guys would make trips back and forth to the sawmill to get truckloads of sawdust to keep the field dry
Reither’s ’49 Ford truck would become legend on the Delhi campus. The guys on his soccer and baseball teams loved it. Reither used the truck as a motivational tool. The players on his baseball team were required to sprint to and from practice, back and forth from the campus to the Legion Field. The top player of the previous game would ride in the truck with Reither, both waving to the guys making their run as they drove past.
Reither’s soccer boys kept urging Reither to give the truck a paint job. One Halloween night Glen and Jackie were awakened to hear a ruckus in the backyard. When Glen peeked out the window he spotted some familiar faces painting his old wreck of a truck – apple blossom pink. Glen instructed Jackie to rustle up some food, went to the door and growled, “What in the heck is going on our here, you Wild Animals.” His players scattered but Glen invited them back assuring them he would only call the cops after they had left.
In fact, the apple blossom pink truck was the precursor of the motivational decal system used by many football and baseball teams in modern times. After one disappointing start to a soccer season, Reither’s SUNY guys were winless, Glen suggested that any players who excelled in a game could paint their names on the sides of the truck. Large gold circles would be added alongside of the name with each exceptional effort in future games.
With a chance to get their name on the side of Coach’s truck, Reither’s soccer guys went crazy, running off six straight wins and later earning a berth in the post-season playoffs. That year’s baseball team refused to allow a team picture in the school yearbook unless it was taken with the guys hanging out and off the truck.
Looking back, for Reither, it was all about the kids. “I was very lucky to have what I call – “my type of kids, kids that would give me 110 percent. They weren’t always the best kids, but they gave you everything they had. And, I was tough. You either liked it or you didn’t play. And, I mean baseball practices at 5:30 a.m. and weekend practices, the whole shebang.”
Over time, Reither learned that to remain relevant coaches have to learn to give and take no matter what their rules. That lesson was learned the hard way. One day when Reither arrived at the gym to leave for a soccer game his best player, Luis Selassie, was unshaven – beard, mustache, long hair. When the bus pulled off, Reither left Selassie standing on the curb.
Returning to Delhi hours later, Selassie waited at the gym door. – head shaved, beard and mustache gone. Selassie was from Ethiopia, and he explained to Reither in his country long hair and facial hair was a sign of manhood. Glen felt terrible telling his star to grow back his hair and learned a valuable lesson about coaching and about life, a lesson he feels all coaches need to learn, and one he would never forget.
“Working with young people was my joy. All the students in my PE classes, all those team members, there are so many kids you remember. Sometimes I would think that I wasn’t earning the money I could have but then you’d see what these kids would do, going on to four year schools, getting jobs. And years later they would send letters or cards thanking you for everything you had done. It was all worth it. I always said if you produce even one person in your whole teaching career, it was worth it.”
Glen Reither can be assured multitudes of his former students and athletes understand that their association with COACH was worth it.