Frank Orlando says he'll be back for 51st season after coaching Country Day to 12th state championship
EAST LANSING – The closeness and unbridled affection longtime Birmingham Detroit Country Day girls basketball coach Frank Orlando shares with his players is evident.
Well, the lovefest for the venerable, mild-mannered Orlando and his perennial-power lady Yellowjackets will continue for at least one more year.
After Country Day beat Pewamo-Westphalia 59-48 in the Class B state finals Saturday night at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Orlando, the state’s all-time winningest coach on the girls hardwood, quelled retirement rumors by announcing that he’ll be returning to the Yellowjackets bench for the 2017-2018 campaign.
“I love coaching these girls so much, I want to keep going,” the legendary 74-year old sideline general told reporters. “This team, these players, are like my daughters. I love what I do and I love each and every one of them”
Orlando has been a head coach for 50 years, the last 30-plus at Country Day where he’s constructed a three-decade dynasty. Saturday’s crown was his and the program’s 12th state title overall.
He began tearing up as the clock’s closing seconds ticked away.
“Fifty tears for 50 years,” Orlando kidded with the press. “When I started coaching five decades ago (at Warren Woods-Tower), I didn’t think I’d win one state championship, now we’ve won 12 here at Country Day. Every single one is special, every single one has meant the world to me.”
Orlando-led Country Day clubs have appeared in 16 state championship games. The core of the 2017 team posted two banners, also claiming a title two years ago.
“This was an outstanding group, its bittersweet to see them leave,” Orlando said. “As an entire unit, these gals had a heart as big as the Breslin Center.”
Country Day senior captain Destiny Pitts, a four-year all-state selection out of the backcourt signed to play her college hoops in the Big Ten at the University of Minnesota, bonded heavily with Orlando during her accolade-filled high school cage career.
“The tradition the Country Day program has is because of what Coach O built and he’s been able to pass that championship legacy down from generation to generation….being a part of that tradition makes me very proud,” Pitts said. “Coach O has won a lot of games and a lot of titles, but I know he loves his players more than any win he’s ever gotten. And we love him that much back. That’s what Country Day basketball is all about.”
Pitts recorded a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds Saturday in the state finals. Her backcourt mate, Yellowjackets junior point guard, Kaela Webb, went for 13 points and nine assists.
Webb will be one of three returning starters for Orlando’s 2018 Country Day team.
“I think Coach O and I might just have one more (state title) left in us,” she said.