By ERIC TABER
The University of Montana basketball coaches who mentored Corey Reiser as a player for the Grizzlies in the late 90’s remember a fighter with a big heart, on and off the court.
After a long battle with cancer, Reiser fell in his last fight on Tuesday, as UM basketball lost a family member well before his time.
“Corey had a little bounce in his step, always kind of had that wry grin and was really competitive,” said former Griz head coach Blaine Taylor. “He had a really good heart and really good head, and was really willing to learn and compete and be a part of something.
“He put up a good fight. Gosh, that’s a terrible disease.”
Reiser played for the Griz from 1997 – 1999 after transferring to Montana from Salt Lake Community College. He played for Taylor his junior year and Don Holst in his senior season.
A two year starter, Reiser led the Grizzlies in assists with 121 in the ’98-’99 season, and scored 349 career points.
Despite his contributions for UM on the scoreboard, it was the way Reiser carried himself off the court that earned the respect of his coaches and peers.
One of those was a Grizzly assistant named Larry Krystkowiak, who coached Reiser his senior year as an assistant under Don Holst.
That relationship built in Missoula would last through to Reiser’s last days in his native Utah, where he was an avid fan of Krystkowiak’s Utah Utes. It was a passion of the Utes that grew out of their shared experience and love of the Grizzlies.
“He was always decked out in his Utes gear, and we shared some good times down the stretch,” said Coach Krystkowiak, who took Reiser with the team to this year’s Pac-12 tournament in Las Vegas.
“Something he had a lot of pride in was being a Griz. I was an assistant coach for him for a while, and the kid was just as gritty, tough-minded and competitive as anybody I’ve been around, and he displayed that up to the end. It’s just not fair what he had to endure and try to go through.”
One of the experiences Coach K and Reiser shared recently was a trip to Missoula for the first ever Grizzly Roundball Roast, a function hosted by current Grizzly head coach Travis DeCuire that brought back Montana’s legendary coaching tree for a night of storytelling and revelry.
“That was a special night,” recalls Krystkowiak. “We had a heck of a couple of days.”
Taylor was another one of the coaches to make his way back to the Garden City for the event.
“I turned around and said ‘Is that Corey?’ and it was hugs and laughter all around,” reminisced Coach Taylor.
“I think the way people viewed Corey as he was fighting cancer was indicative of the human qualities he had before he became sick. People thought a lot of him before he was ill, but they thought more of him after. He really carried himself so respectfully through the sickness.”
With the respect of knowing Reiser battled the scourge of cancer with tenacity and spirit – just as you’d expect from a Grizzly – for those in the Montana basketball family that knew him, they take solace in knowing he has moved on to a better place.
“I’m deeply saddened by the whole thing, but at the same time I think there is a big sense of relief that he’s no longer dealing with a lot of that suffering and pain,” added Krystkowiak.
“He was a man of faith, and we have no doubt that he’s in a better place with the Lord.”