Orlando Griego is no longer the interim women’s basketball coach at Fort Lewis College.
After a discussion with FLC athletic director Brandon Leimbach on Friday morning, Griego had the interim label removed from his title and was given a vow of confidence going forward as the head women’s basketball coach of the Skyhawks.
“It was really nice to get that phone call and have a meeting with our AD and just be able to get that confirmation that he really values what I bring to the table and sees my vision,” Griego said in a phone interview with The Durango Herald.
Leimbach said he was “thrilled” to make the announcement and move forward with Griego.
“He put a competitive product out on the floor last year in his first season running the show and is the ultimate team player within our department,” Leimbach said in a news release. “He has also done a great job mentoring (assistant coach) Cydney McHenry, who is another rising star in collegiate women’s basketball.”
Griego, a 2003 graduate of Durango High School, took over the FLC women’s team in the summer of 2019 when previous head coach Jason Flores was hired as an assistant athletic director at FLC. Griego had served as Flores’ assistant for one season after he previously was a girls basketball assistant coach for Tim Fitzpatrick, his former high school head coach, at Durango High School.
The longtime Durangoan played college basketball at Cochise College in Arizona and was a conference freshman of the year, conference champion and team MVP before he got a chance to play Division I at Southern Utah University.
In his interim season as FLC’s head coach, the Skyhawks got out to a red-hot start before they lost the final seven games of the season to miss the Division II Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference eight-team tournament by one spot. FLC finished 15-12 overall and 11-11 in RMAC play.
“We had a pretty good year but didn’t finish it off quite how we’d like to as a program,” Griego said. “I thought we had a lot of good learning on a young team. We learned we have to play every possession, so the small things like really boxing out for rebounds, things like that. If we can really do that and can focus and not lose ourselves in the moment and play 40 minutes every single game, we will be in a really good position moving forward.
“I know our kids are committed to wanting more, wanting better. We are excited about that moving forward.”
During his interim season, Griego coached like very possession would win or lose the game. He said that is simply his style.
“I like to be engaged in the game,” he said. “I’m vocal and loud and just want to be able to have the girls feed off my energy like I feed off their energy. That’s just how I go. I’m loud at practice and loud at games. That’s going to be how I approach every game.”
Right now, Griego has no contact with his players with an NCAA suspension of all activities because of the new coronavirus and an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19. The RMAC canceled all spring sports because of COVID-19.
“We are at a standstill right now,” Griego said. “When things do come back, I will be excited to see the players.”
While COVID-19 has shut down athletics, schools and many businesses, Griego and his wife, Katherine Sumrall-Griego, an FLC alumna and former Skyhawks volleyball player, have been active players in the Durango community on the “Stand Together Durango COVID19” group on Facebook, with people sharing information, offering to help each other and finding ways to support local business.
Griego will also have McHenry, a Dolores High School and Adams State University alumna, return to the bench next season as assistant coach. With the local connections of both coaches, fans turned out in higher numbers to support the FLC women’s team during the 2019-20 season. Griego hopes that will continue.
“It’s meant so much,” he said. “Everyone has been very welcoming and open to me taking over and so supportive. I’ve had a lot of people come to our games from my old high school friends, a lot of parents of people I went to high school with. It’s nice to be able to bring extra people up to Whalen Gymnasium, put more people in Whalen and have that support for our girls. The community has done a wonderful job of supporting one of their own up at the college. I believe that support will continue growing as time goes on.”