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UND's all-time winningest basketball coach Rich Glas enjoys life away from the sideline

Rich and Sandy Glas watch a video tribute with former coach Dave Gunther and past UND players. (photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

In 1977, Rich Glas was a 28-year-old head men's basketball coach at Minnesota Morris.

In his third year leading the NCAA Division III program, Glas led Morris to the school's first conference title.

"We had a fun time that night," the 69-year-old Glas said.

On his way out of the arena that evening, Glas remembers taking out the garbage.

"I looked up in the sky and thought, boy, you win a title and you still take out the garbage," Glas said. "Life goes on ... life goes on."

That early lesson of keeping basketball in perspective—a staple of Glas' tutelage over the years—is useful to him again now.

After 47 years of coaching—18 of those years at UND—Glas has traded in the title of coach for husband, dad and grandpa—mostly from the relaxing confines of his now full-time lake home near Nevis, Minn.

"No regrets," Glas said. "I enjoy the grandkids and the things I've done to this point in time. Life isn't going to last forever."

Glas was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and had surgery. A test last year showed he was cancer free, but the health scare was an eye-opener.

"That kind of gave me the push because I thought I was going to coach until I was 75," Glas said. "I was feeling good, then all of a sudden I thought this might be too late do the things Sandy (Glas' wife) and I want to do. I didn't want to hold her up because I was playing a game. It's worked out great. I'm a happy camper."

Glas recently moved from Moorhead, where he spent the past nine years as head coach and athletic director for Concordia College, to his lake home, which is about 45 miles from Bemidji.

Sandy also retired last summer. They have two children—Randi (Oregon) and Jeff (Bismarck). Jeff was a former UND football kicker, earning All-American status in 2005 and three all-North Central Conference honors. He remains UND's all-time leader in points scored (420) and field-goals made (82).

"(Sandy and I) both have the opportunities to dictate our lives to what we want to do instead of having our jobs dictate what we do," Glas said.

Basketball still has a place for Glas, though. He's traveled to watch some of his former players now coach collegiately: Ben Jacobson at Northern Iowa, Greg McDermott at Creighton, Mike Boschee at Bemidji State and Nigel Jenkins at Waldorf.

Glas' favorite coaching memory came during his last season with the Cobbers when about 40 of his former players lined up to form a tunnel for Glas to walk out onto the court.

"It's nice to get the wins, but they really disappear," Glas said. "The relationships never go away."

That's part of the message Glas tries to relay when he speaks to teams now.

"What I hope happens is when you leave you leave behind a tradition of winning but do it the right way," Glas said. "By doing that, you'll leave with the attitude you know what it takes to be a champion.

"When you play the game for those 40 minutes, it isn't important you win. That game won't determine if you're a better dad or business person. It's those attitudes and relationships that stay with you for the rest of your life."

Glas came to UND after an assistant coaching stint at the University of Hawaii. He was immediately interested in the job in Grand Forks because of his respect for former coach Dave Gunther and his ties to the area.

Glas was a former college basketball player at Bemidji State and his dad, John Glas, was a Bemidji State president and the eventual namesake of a BSU sports facility.

Rich's brother Bob played football and basketball at UND in the 1960s so Rich was familiar with time spent at Memorial Stadium and Hyslop Sports Center.

In Glas' first season at UND, the Fighting Sioux set a school record for losses as the team went 8-20. Future UND standout Dave Vonesh broke his foot and couldn't play during that 1988-89 season.

With a healthy Vonesh and new LSU transfer Scott Guldseth the following season, UND went from 8-20 to 28-7 and a third-place national finish.

Glas became the all-time winningest coach in UND basketball with a record of 335-194, posting eight 20-win seasons and guiding the Sioux to eight NCAA Division II tournament appearances.

Glas coached many of UND's greats including Guldseth, Vonesh, Travis Tuttle, Chris Gardner, Todd Johnson, Chad Mustard and future NBA draft pick Jerome Beasley.

Earlier this year, Glas visited Jacobson's Northern Iowa team and remembered what he didn't miss as a new retiree.

"Watching Jake pace the sideline and his team wasn't making shots and should be winning, I don't miss all that," Glas said. "But I miss practice. I always had fun in practice because you were teaching."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department since 2004. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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