Dale Reichert was Lorain Steelmen basketball.
He got to coach his alma mater for 23 seasons and he played on arguably one of the best basketball teams ever to come out of the old school on Washington Avenue and 6th Street in Lorain.
He played on the first-ever Buckeye Conference basketball champions when the league started in 1955, and 31 years later he coached the last champion before the league folded.
Reichert died Tuesday at age 75.
“I saw him on Thanksgiving,” longtime assistant Rich Foulk said. “The whole family was there. God granted him one last good day.”
He was a no-nonsense coach at Lorain, winning 286 games over the course of his career. As a player, Reichert wasn’t very big.
He was 5-foot-11, weighed about 180 pounds, but he excelled in every sport he played.
“He was very competitive but always a gentleman,” said Carl Hartman, his lifelong best friend, teammate and assistant coach.
“I’ve known Dale since we were 10-11 years old.”
Reichert wasn’t one to blow his own horn. In fact, Foulk said he didn’t even realize he was only 14 victories from 300 when he retired.
“We won 16 games the next year,” said Foulk, who followed his mentor as head coach of the Steelmen. “Those wins could have been his but the numbers didn’t matter to him.”
Hartman and Reichert were a team. They grew up together. They played with and against each other. They both played on the fabled 1955-56 Steelmen five that advanced to the district final at the old Cleveland Arena. Lorain didn’t have a starter over 6-foot, but it won the prestigious Buckeye Conference in its first year. The Steelmen lost to Cleveland West Tech in the district final.
“We were very limited in size,” Hartman said. “We played for Al McConihe. We had fun playing for him. Dale, Ron Bobel and Tom McConihe, the coach’s son, were the stars. West Tech was bigger and had more talent and were more athletic than we were.
Had we won, we would have played East Tech (a power in those days) in the regional.”
That Lorain team could score points and Reichert was usually the ring leader. It rolled up 112 points against Marion Harding and 99 against Elyria High. The Steelmen defeated the Pioneers three times that year, but they fell short against West Tech.
They wound up with an 18-3 record.
Reichert moved on to play basketball and baseball at Kent State. Hartman went to Bowling Green to play football, but they both wound up signing Major League Baseball contracts — Reichert with the Dodgers, Hartman with the Tigers.
“We always kept in contact,” Hartman said. “We played against each other in the minors. Dale was at Kokomo and I was at Decatur.”
“Dale was listed as one of the better prospects in the Dodger system,” Foulk said. “He was right up there with Junior Gillam and Frank Howard. He spent three years in the minors. There wasn’t much money being paid back then so when Lorain (schools) offered him a job, he took it.”
Reichert batted .586 in his senior year at Lorain and hit .379 and .478 at Kent State before the Dodgers signed him. He hit 30 homers and drove in 100 for Kokomo in 1959.
“Bill Veeck (owner of the White Sox) offered to sign him to a major league contract but the Dodgers wouldn’t release him,” Foulk said. “It was a lot different then. The owners had complete control of the players.”
Reichert started at Longfellow School in Lorain, but soon was promoted to the high school where he assisted Bob Telatnik with the basketball team. When Telatnik left Lorain for Avon Lake in 1968, Reichert took over and moved Hartman up from Longfellow.
“He started at Longfellow in 1964 and I started a year later,” Hartman said. “We both retired in 1991.”
Lorain struggled in basketball for years, but Reichert and Hartman turned the program into a respectable one. The Steelmen had several very good and talented teams under Reichert, but never advanced out of the Admiral King district. The crosstown Admirals dominated the field on their home court, but Reichert never complained.
He was always congenial and professional at postgame interviews. He always praised his opponent — win or lose — and his players all liked playing for him.
One of his best teams — the 1986-87 Steelmen — won the final Buckeye Conference title. In fact, before the season began Reichert had T-shirts made up for his team that said ‘Won it in ’56, Win it in ’87.’ The team finished 18-3, losing 48-45 to Admiral King in the district final.
“It wasn’t the most talented team we had,” Hartman said, “but the kids played well as a team.”
The Lorain Sports Hall of Fame honored both teams — the 55-56 and the 86-87 — with induction. Reichert and Hartman have each been inducted as individuals.
Reichert is survived by his wife Nancy, son David of Lakewood, and two daughters — Dana Zabrecky of Elyria and Lacey of Amherst. Lacey has followed in her father’s coaching footsteps and leads the softball program at Amherst. His brother Jim resides in Amherst and his sister — Jane Kapp — lives in Columbus.