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GRAYSON – It's always been about “my boys” to Ron Reed.
Even though the last time he directed a basketball team was guiding the Russell High School girls in the 16th Region tournament at Morehead State University, Reed wanted to make sure his boys would be the first to know about the latest development in his life.
“I asked them not to say anything until I told my boys,” Reed said of his new employer at Kentucky Christian University. “I wanted to tell my boys first.'
Some of those “boys” are now pushing 60 years old, but that doesn't mean anything to the 65-year-old Reed, who coached three sports at Anderson County High School from 1973-78.
Kentucky Christian is the 12th stop in a career that has spanned more than 40 years.
Along the way, his boys played basketball, football or baseball. One, from his first coaching job, went on to win four World Series championships. Another has been featured in a hit movie. But most lead normal, relatively obscure lives, living the virtues that Reed instilled or nurtured in the times their lives and Reed's intersected.
On August 14, with over 75 of his boys in attendance at a gathering held at Dr. James Gilbert's home in Nicholasville, Reed broke the news about the latest, and possibly last, move in his coaching career. Reed has been charged with returning Kentucky Christian to the top of the National Christian College Athletic Association, where the Knights have won seven national championships.
“His boys” are elated that Reed has been given the reins of returning KCU to the top of the NCCAA.
“Initially, I was surprised,” says Lawrenceburg resident Steven Royalty, one of Reed's baseball and basketball boys at Anderson. “After all he is something like 65 years old. However, after I thought about it it really seemed like a natural fit because I don’t see Coach Reed as the type of person who can totally retire.”
But why? Why get back to the rigors of recruiting, especially with the constraints of budget and institutional rules that are common at the small college level? Why spend countless hours with kids young enough to be your grandchildren?
Reed just breaks into that “I-am-a-coach” smile that has been through 12 stops along the way. “I enjoy coaching more than anything I have done in my life. You have something to do with boys becoming men,” he says.
“He really enjoys working with young people and trying to get them to play up to their potential,” Royalty says. “So, I think basketball is something that has helped to keep him young looking and acting.”
There is little question Reed wants to win now as much as he ever did. “My goal is to win the national championship here,” he said as he worked on the coming year's schedule, took phone calls and visited with students who stopped by his office last Wednesday.
Under the late Dick Damron, Kentucky Christian and national championships were synonymous. The Knights were sometimes referred to as “The UCLA of the NCCAA” or other names comparing them to the big boys.
But while the school's women's program seems to schedule hanging championship banners – they have won 12 titles, including the last four – the men's program has not brought the big trophy back to Grayson since 1999.
“I was an assistant here (during Damron's tenure). We got to the MidEast regional finals,” Reed recalls of a stint from 10 years back.
Reed moved on to coach at Ohio Southern College, located in Ironton, just across the river from his native Ashland. While he had a chance to take over the Knight program when Damron left coaching, he honored the commitment to Ohio Southern, staying seven years.
In between there was the one-year stint guiding the Russell girls, winning the 63rd District title before taking last year off.
Little has changed in Reed's hoops philosophy from the days when he was an assistant, then head coach at Anderson: Give nothing less than total effort and play a stifling man-to-man defense.
Some things have changed, though, he grins. Gone are his plaid coats, but that is not his choice. “My wife won't let me wear them,” he grins.
The core, however, is the same.
Just demand total effort and give of yourself.
In fact, one of Reed's KCU boys is Anderson County graduate Eric McKee, now a senior at the school. McKee's father, “Dagger” played on Anderson's Sweet 16 team in 1974 when Reed was an assistant.
His resume shows three seasons at Ole Miss but Reed says he is more than happy to tile in the relative obscurity of Grayson.
Rising above his desk is a motivational card that says, “God wants you to utilize your talent.”
The card references Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the LORD, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the LORD as a reward. It is the LORD Christ you are serving.”
Nothing could better summarize Ron Reed's life as a coach, whether the sport is basketball, football, baseball or softball.
“I am used to people giving total effort,” he smiles.
His boys know that Reed expects nothing more, nothing less. “What people don't realize is how much effort you have to put in to play at this level.
“Here is three steps up from Ohio Southern. There, I drove a van (for road trips) that had 250,000 miles on it. Here, we have a Greyhound bus.”
On the court, Reed will make do with a roster that features a 6-foot-5 center, but otherwise, some talented players who, for one reason or another, did not suit up at a higher level. Among the returning players is senior Eric McKee, an all-state selection at Anderson County in 2004. Some recruiting analysts at the time saw McKee as a mid-major prospect – think OVC level. He has found a home in Grayson.
“We are probably a notch below Berea (College),” Reed says.
Since graduating from Morehead State -- “The Harvard of the South,” Reed quips – Reed has seen his share of talent. An assistant football coach at McKell High School in Greenup County, one of Reed's pupils was running back Don Gullett, who went on to fame as the ace of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine pitching staff.
At Anderson County, Reed was an assistant coach on a 9-1 football team and a Sweet 16 basketball team in the 1973-74 school year. He eventually rose to the head basketball coach, winning a pair of district titles in three years.
On the baseball diamond at Anderson, Reed's Bearcats took three straight district titles before he left for Lawrence County.
Reed ended up on Bob Weltlich's staff at Ole Miss, first as a graduate assistant, then as a full assistant. In 1981, the Rebels, shocked college basketball by winning the SEC tournament championship, still the only basketball league title in the Rebels' history.
While there, one of Reed's boys was point guard Sean Tuohy. The two became close.
A standout playmaker, Tuohy has been the color commentator for the Memphis Grizzlies for seven years, but became a household name as the character played by Tim McGraw in the movie, “The Blind Side.”
As with most of his boys, Reed stays in touch with Tuohy as much as possible.
“Leigh Ann Tuohy babysat for my two girls when we were at Ole Miss,” Reed says. “Sandra Bullock was just like her in the movie, but I think Leigh Ann is prettier.”
Despite leaving Mississippi for Milligan College when his daughters were young, both went back to Oxford and graduated from Ole Missl
“But after I saw the movie, I e-mailed Sean and told him I never saw him on an exercise bike,” Reed chuckles.
But Tuohy is like all of Reed's other boys. What he's done after hanging up the high-tops is most important.
Reed won't have any NBA stars at Kentucky Christian. That doesn't matter.
“The last time I counted, 78 guys that have played for me have gone on to be teachers or coaches,” Reed smiles. “There are four doctors, six engineers, and five ministers.
“I have a favorite Bible verse,” Reed says as he hands over a business card from his days working as an area director with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
On the back, Galatians 6:4 is printed: “Everyone be sure that he is doing his very best, for then he will have the personal satisfaction of work well done, and won't need to compare himself with someone else.”
His boys would certainly understand.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.