Making cuts

Rochester boys basketball coach Rob Malchow finishes cutting down the nets after the Zebras’ 60-52 win in two overtimes over Rensselaer in the Class 2A, Sectional 37 final at Winamac Saturday. RHS will play Blackford at approximately noon Saturday in a Lapel regional semifinal. Malchow employs six different assistant coaches, all of whom have different strengths.

Rochester boys basketball coach Rob Malchow found out Thursday that his team would play Blackford as scheduled at noon Saturday in a Class 2A regional semifinal but with a limited amount of spectators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That gave Malchow another task. With a pen and yellow pad, he had to write down who from RHS would receive the 75 complimentary tickets for admittance into the regional. All others who purchased tickets may return to the school for a refund.

While he began to put together his list, he mused if there was an emerging double standard. If attendance is being limited for the safety of the fans, then what is being done for the safety of the players?

“I will say that not letting the fans come as they normally would, I don’t understand how they’re letting them play,” Malchow said. “Because of the contact and how you defend and the whole game process.

So I think there should be a concern, but I don’t understand how they’re worried about fans sitting beside each other for two hours, but the kids playing against each other and touching each other, sweating on each other. ... I don’t know how else to say it except I guess there is a concern.”

Malchow said no parents had contacted him as of noon Thursday saying they didn’t want their child to play.

Malchow said the team had three players – Kalvary Lingenfelter, Tarick McGlothin and Landon Kelly – who missed school Monday and Tuesday with the flu. All players were in attendance for the team’s practice at Lapel Wednesday.

“Are we healthy? No. Are we getting healthier with the flu-type stuff? Yes.” Malchow said.

Lapel is located in Madison County. There are no known confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Fulton or Madison counties.

Coaching variety

Malchow started his coaching career as an assistant coach on Bill Titus’ staff in 1988. He acknowledged the wide variety of tasks his coaches perform today. Tony Stesiak, Sean Kelly, Joe McCarter, Rex Reinholt, Luke Smith and Mike Malchow can all be spotted on the Zebra bench during games.

Typically, during a timeout, an assistant coach will get the first word. Then Malchow will chime in. The topic during a timeout could be an offensive set or a change in defensive scheme.

“During some of the timeouts, I will pull my coaches together and ask them whatever the scenario may be at that point in the game, one of them may give me an idea, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I like that. Go tell them right now.’ And then he’ll go down, whether it’s Rex or Tony or Sean or whomever, and I’ll still be talking to my other coaches and gathering information, and then he’s wrapping up, and I’ll usually come in to put the final touches on the timeout,” Malchow said.

Malchow is in his second stint as coach. He coached the Zebras from 2002-11 before stepping down and then returning in 2017.

“I wouldn’t be coaching without these guys,” Malchow said.

“Three years ago, when I thought about getting back into the game, if you remember during my first run, towards the end it was Rex, but along the way, it was Luke Zartman or Jack McCray that were my varsity assistants.

But Sean Kelly was always there and there was my freshman coach DeWayne Stiles. And then I had my brother Mike and Mike Barnett, who sat on the bench with us. I knew enough then that there is so much that goes into the details of a daily practice schedule or just general information that I didn’t want to do this unless I had a bunch of guys that wanted to do it with me.”

Stesiak’s strength is game preparation, film study and scouting. Kelly is the JV coach and is very good at “the Xs and Os of set plays.” McCarter is “junkie” when it comes to studying other teams and other players and their strengths and weaknesses. Smith often works with players one on one with skill development. Mike Malchow has experience both playing and coaching at the small school level. Abbie Malchow, Rob’s daughter, runs the K-5 program.

“You can get burnt out really fast if you’re the person doing all that,” Malchow said.

The most interesting perspective might belong to Smith. A 2006 RHS grad who played collegiately at Huntington University, Smith is the one person on the coaching staff who played for Malchow previously. He was on sectional title teams in 2004 and 2006.

“I think he’s had a lot of fun,” Malchow said. “He and I have always had a special bond going back to when he played for me.

He leaned on me as a player. I tried to do everything I could to make his experience as a player a good one. I think getting texts from Kory Barnett (Nevada assistant coach and 2008 RHS grad) as they’re following the Zebras, some of my former players reaching out as we succeed like in a sectional championship. But Luke being here hands on, when it was obvious that we were going to win with about 18 seconds left, I turned around and he just had this grin from ear to ear, and he was coming up to chest-bump me. And it’s a thrill. Because he’s invested. He comes in here and works hard with the guys. ... And because he’s younger, there’s a connection that he has that maybe some of us older guys don’t.”

Malchow said the more help he gets, that allows him to focus on coaching the team to more wins.

“Every one of those guys, they know that I trust them and that I’m always listening,” Malchow said.

Comparisons to 2004

Malchow won his first sectional title as RHS coach in 2004. That was the second season of his first stint.

He’s now won a sectional in the third season of his second stint. It’s his fifth sectional as a coach. There are parallels to that season. On Dec. 13, 2003, RHS lost at home to Caston in two overtimes.

This season, RHS lost at home to Caston in two overtimes.

“We had some injuries in ‘04 – Luke Smith early in the season, Chucky Gibbons late in the season,” Malchow remembered. “This year, we had a couple injuries and illnesses. In ‘04, we got the bye. We got the bye this year. We played Rensselaer for the championship in ‘04. We played Rensselaer for the championship this year. So a lot of things mirrored ‘04.”

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