Students who entered Kodiak High School in the early 1980s often wondered who Keith Omlid was.
Fair question, considering there once was a trophy case dedicated to Omlid’s athletic prowess on the basketball court.
“I moved to Kodiak right when the Omlid shrine was put in place, and I remember thinking, ‘who is this basketball God?”’ Grant Cowlthorp posted in the Kodiak Sports History Facebook group.
Apparently, Omlid’s No. 42 white Kodiak jersey was on display in the trophy case after he graduated in 1982, which prompted many onlookers to believe the school had retired the number. That might not have been the case, though, especially since Patrick Floyd donned No. 42 when he entered high school several years later.
“I don’t remember his jersey being retired,” Omlid’s high school coach Harry Mickelson told me earlier this week.
Mickelson did recall Omlid being a smart ballplayer and a hard worker on the court, which earned him a nomination for a coveted spot on the 1982 Converse National High School Basketball All-American AA squad.
Omlid was one of only five Alaska players chosen for the honor by Lathrop’s Dick Lee, a boys basketball representative to the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
Here is an excerpt from a Kodiak Daily Mirror article that ran March 26, 1982:
“Keith’s abilities in academics and sportsmanship, as well as his athletic prowess, set him apart from his peers to be among the lucky five candidates. According to athletic director Mike Platt at KHS, ‘Keith is an extremely serious basketball player who simply loves the sport.’ As team captain for the Kodiak Bears, Omlid exhibited a natural leadership ability inspiring respect and confidence in his teammates by his own example.”
Omlid was known as a relentless defender but was also capable of popping off 20 points and posting double-doubles.
“He had braces the first year that I coached him,” Mickelson said. “As happens in basketball, sometimes, he got hit right in the mouth with the basketball, and he just shook it off and kept going. I thought you know what, this kid is pretty tough.”
Omlid grew up at a summer fish sight with his folks, Sid and Darlene Omlid. Hauling in fish shaped him into the ball player that he was.
The reputation followed Omlid throughout his three-year varsity career. As a captain his senior year, he anchored a 25-5 team that finished sixth at the state tournament.
“Man, there was no one as aggressive as you,” teammate Gary Ferriss reminded Omlid in a post on the Kodiak Sports History group. “Every rebound was yours! I was always trying to match your work ethic in practice. You were a beast in mismatched socks!”
Mickelson said Omlid, who played the wing, had a knack for reading the offense of the opposing team and was “one thought ahead all the time.”
“Because he was smart, he played so well from the neck up,” Mickelson said. “If we had to match him up on a big man, he would be smart enough to deny him the ball rather than let himself get posted up. Then he may do something like follow that big man from baseline to baseline and make sure he had to run around him instead of running a straight path to the other end to tire him out.”
Omlid, who currently lives in Oregon, politely declined to be interviewed for this piece. That didn’t surprise his old coach.
“That would be pretty consistent with who he is,” Mickelson said. “He was absolutely never one to beat his chest and go ‘look how good I am.’ He did interviews quite well, it was usually ‘I scored a lot of points, but my teammates did a great job at getting me the ball’ … he always gave everybody around him credit.”
Omlid did take to Facebook and left a comment on a vintage photo that was posted of him on the Kodiak Sports History group.
“Here’s the truth … I’m about the worst basketball player in my family … my wife was a college All-American, my second son is playing professionally in Europe and my other kids were all solid,” he wrote.
That’s no lie. His kids are legit athletes.
Tanner Omlid was an NCAA Division II All-American hoopster for Western Oregon University, the same school his mom, Allison Howard, played for. He graduated as the program’s all-time leader in steals, blocks and rebounds. He now plays professionally in Europe.
His daughter, Krista, plays volleyball at Western Oregon.