SPANISH FORK Roger Reid may not hit greens in regulation, but he almost always putts for pars. His tee shots are right down the middle, his irons fly straight, it's just that with two hip replacement surgeries and an ankle that needs to be fused, he can't deliver the power he once had. But he loves to golf, and he's still coaching college basketball with the kind of players he believes he can make better, day by day.
As a professional coach, as an athlete, as Roger Reid that will do.
At Payson's Gladstan Golf Course, on a beautiful spring day, Reid played 18 and shot 86, which easily could have been an 84. He remains a competitive, driven man. He loves coaching at Snow College because his players listen and they want to get better. Reid just finished his first season at Snow, taking over for Jon Judkins, now at Dixie State College.
In this setting, he took a break to discuss his life, career and philosophy.
Reid is happy at Snow. He doesn't foresee a time he can't get fired up about coaching basketball in Ephraim right now or a Division I school. The coals still smolder for the former BYU coach. He tries not to dwell on the bitter departure at BYU, but it's part of what he'll be remembered for. He refuses to publicly drag that chain around; he only wants to get down the road with his career and life. He says if he had it to do over at BYU, however, he'd change the way he did some things.
One of those things is he wouldn't have recruited his sons, Robbie and Randy, and put them in Cougar uniforms too many pitfalls. Another perhaps something symbolic would be playing more golf. A member of Riverside Country Club while BYU's head coach, Reid only played golf nine times, but in the rewind in his mind, he would have spent more time at the club and gotten to know folks, let them know him. He stayed away from golf because he thought people might take it the wrong way that he was playing instead of working. These days, a lot of coaches do both and make it work in their favor. Reid sees that now.
"I made a mistake not doing that, going to the club. I wasn't shaking the right hands," Reid said.
How does he think people remember him at BYU?
"Well, one thing, I tried to give it my best. At BYU, the only thing I feel bad about is I didn't finish my job. I had higher goals for the school. I know the fans have passion and they really wanted to win a national championship, although I don't know how realistic that was. But whenever I went to a Final Four, I thought about that.
"Like me or dislike me as a player or athlete myself, I expected the best and worked hard. I never wanted to shortchange anybody. I wanted people to be at their best. Some people couldn't handle that, when you pushed them beyond their limits, to try and make them the best they could be . . . real men can . . . just like the players who write me and call me and say how much they got out of playing . . . those are the ones who are real winners, because they took advantage of the experience, the opportunity, the chance to play."
Reid said he did everything in his power to create the best teams he could. "It's like recruiting my own kid. I'd never do it again, although there were other top programs and coaches who were calling and recruiting them.
"It's kind of funny, isn't it, that in other professions, people can hire their own kid or as a professor, have them in their classes and nobody says a thing. But I saw others recruiting my sons and I thought to myself, if BYU was the place to be, and was what I was selling to other recruits, why wasn't it good enough or the place to be for my sons? But, then if they went somewhere else, people might say, 'Hey, he can't even recruit his own sons. It's a tough thing, You just can't win, playing your son."
Reid doesn't want to get into the regret business, place blame on himself or others. But if you are around him long enough, you can tell his experience at BYU was one of his greatest times but was also a stretch that scorched him, his family and their spirits.
But things have changed. That was 1996.
His oldest son, Randy, is a Harvard Business School graduate, works in New York City for Goldman Sachs and is building a $2 million-plus house in New Jersey.
Robbie Reid, who transferred from BYU to Michigan after his father left BYU, started two years for the Wolverines after an LDS mission to Greece. Without the benefit of a redshirt year, he played immediately in the Big 10 and became the most prolific 3-point shooter in school history behind Glen Rice. He helped lead Michigan to a Big 10 championship. Since Robbie Reid's time, others have passed him in the Michigan record book, but he stands today No. 4 in field goals made in a season, No. 1 in 3-pointers attempted in a season, No. 4 in career 3-point field-goal shooting and No. 5 in career 3-point field goals made. His game winner, a 3-pointer in 1994 in the Huntsman Center, was the last BYU basketball victory there, a 73-70 Cougar decision.
Robbie Reid has just been accepted to Harvard Business School after a professional playing career in Estonia, Saudi Arabia, Austria, London, Italy and most recently this past year, in Venezuela. He worked with Randy on Wall Street after playing at Michigan, but didn't want to step away from playing ball at that time.
Third son Darren graduated from UVSC on a presidential scholarship and then went on to Ohio State Law School where he is a member of the Law Review, ranked in the top 5 percent, and just accepted a job clerking at the Utah Supreme Court this summer.
Daughter Kellie Ann is married and lives in Highland.
The year was 1989 when BYU elevated 11-year assistant coach Roger Reid to replace Ladell Andersen, whose team finished 14-15 in 1988-89. Before that losing season, the Cougars and Andersen, led by All-American Michael Smith, won 17 straight and was ranked No. 3 nationally two years before in 1986-87.
Reid was given a team to rebuild. He had no superstars. He had Idaho sharpshooter Andy Toolson, who'd later sign with the Utah Jazz and become an assistant coach at BYU. Other lettermen were guards Marty Haws, Kevin Santiago and Steve Schreiner from Utah, Utah Valley State College transfer Scott Moon, Mark Heslop and Mark Durrant, who'd played one year before going on a mission, from Provo High. Most of the players were Utahns. Todd Crow, a juco frontline player, was to transfer to BYU-Hawaii.
Reid took that squad and finished 21-9 and won the WAC tournament in El Paso, Texas. During that season, the Cougars played solid team defense and used a bevy of offensive plays centered on screens and picks that got Toolson, Durrant and Schreiner a ton of open shots. When the Cougars executed, their possession score ratio was extremely high and they beat teams with more talent. BYU won at Arizona State, defeated UTEP in overtime and at one point in mid-season, won 10 straight games. Reid was named the WAC and District Coach of the Year.
The season ended in Hartford, Conn., in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The Cougars were playing Clemson, which was led by NBA-bound center Eldon Campbell.
The Cougars battled Clemson down to the wire and seemingly had the game won when BYU called a set option play to set up Durrant. On that play, Toolson flashed to the basket, another option, and he had the choice of driving or hitting a guard for a back door alley-oop pass. This one came down to the option pass to Haws, who had a clear driving lane to the hoop for one of his patented layins. Haws, a storied high school sprinter, had fooled opponents all season long with his outstanding speed, zipping past defenders to the hoop. This appeared to be one of those as he caught the ball, turned and went to lay the ball in.
But the ball spun out, missed. Clemson won 48-47 and advanced. BYU went home.
The NCAA later slapped Clemson with sanctions for playing with two ineligible players, one of whom was Campbell. One of the penalties was to forfeit that NCAA game. But the penalty came later, too late for the Cougars.
"That hurt," Reid remembers. "Clemson cheated and went on, celebrated and got to play another game. Our kids, disappointed, ended their season and they went home and never got a chance to see how far they could have gone."
Santiago remembers that game and that play like it was yesterday. It's been replayed in his head ever since. "I can draw it out for you on a paper, every move. We knew it so well. It hurt that we lost that game because we played even with them right to the end."
Part of the greatness of Roger Reid, according to Santiago, was that BYU practiced that play all season long, every day, but that was the first time they used it. "Reid had us prepared. We always knew what the other guys were going to do and we had great game plans to attack it. We had a lot of options and plays and if we executed, we knew we had a chance to score," Santiago said.
"It's bizarre that you can still remember a play like that after all these years. The great thing about coach Reid is we lost Mike Smith from that team and they replaced him with Mark Durrant. You have coach, who believed we could go to the NCAAs and win and we talked of going there from Day 1. He had us so prepared for every game, the X's and O's were down, we knew our stuff. We might not have had the stars some other teams had, but we knew where we wanted to go on every play."
Reid remains the most successful basketball coach (win-loss percentage) to ever work at BYU. He amassed a 152-77 (.664) record in eight seasons. His teams had six 20-win seasons, won three WAC titles, two WAC tournaments, and earned six postseason bids, including five NCAA tournament nods. He is the last BYU coach to win an NCAA tournament game, a win over SMU in Chicago before losing to Kansas with Roy Williams and Greg Ostertag at The Horizon. He is the only WAC or MWC coach to have coached across the floor from Rick Majerus at Utah and call it even.
And Reid always put a priority on playing Air Force in Colorado Springs. This, of course was before AFA got really good. While UTEP, New Mexico and even Utah would routinely stumble to the Falcons on the road, Reid had BYU winning there more than others, a key to three WAC titles.
On Dec. 17, 1996, the Cougars had only one win, and BYU dismissed Reid.
In subsequent years, he's coached with the Phoenix Suns with Danny Ainge and went to China for two seasons to coach in a professional league that produced Houston Rockets star Yao Ming.
During one of Snow's last games, Reid stood nearly the entire game, working his players and the officials, trying to get an edge on defense and get his team to exploit an opponent's weakness on the other end. Before tipoff, he met with a potential recruit and his parents from a Salt Lake City high school. When the visitors returned to the stands, shaking the hand of the coach was a big deal.
"He's been excellent," Snow athletic director Bob Trythall said. "His name has been very well received down here. To have him, the background he has, the quality of family man he is has just been outstanding for us. All our anticipation of his enthusiasm and knowledge of the game has been well received and we've enjoyed his assistants, Ron Carling and Steve Winn. We've enjoyed it."
The Badgers finished 10-20 overall, 7-11 in league play.
It's been a tough year with the transition," Trythall said. "We're anxious to see what recruiting we can do this year and what he does."
Snow doesn't have a recruiting budget per se, Trythall said. "The basketball budget is $36,000 for everything. It's not big time. There is no recruiting budget there is no such thing. There's a basketball budget and coaches have to determine how to get up and down the road."
The past season was tough, but Reid knew it would be, coming in for Judkins. He stands up for the players who stuck with the program.
"These guys want to be coached," Reid said. "They haven't been recruited by 10 Division I schools and coaches. They aren't going around saying 'me, me, me.' These guys are trying to prove they can play the game. They come out every day, work hard, they are loyal and play for the reasons they are meant to to make the team."
This past year there were no returning starters for Reid's staff. Next season, three starters return. This year there are some coaches who want to place some players at Snow and the staff is looking at some foreign athletes.
Reid said junior-college recruiting is harder than Division I. "First, in Division I, you have more finances to travel. Second, you start watching tournaments when kids are very young and by the time they are juniors you have 10 guys you have singled out. In this setting, you have guys for two years and you aren't sure what their plans are early and there is turnover every two years, people transfer, others pop up during the summer when they don't qualify for a major college."
Reid is happy at Snow. He praises school president Steve Benson, labeling him a brilliant, intelligent administrator with outstanding fund-raising and leadership skills. "He has brought in more financial backing than anyone who has ever had that job."
It's been a few years since the accident that took Roger Reid's older brother Duke, his mentor and best friend. Since Duke coached at Alta and Utah Valley State College, the two had a lot in common. Duke was consistently a presence at Roger's practices in the Marriott Center. They talked every day. "He was very thoughtful and gave me good advice," Roger Reid said.
Like Roger, Duke suffered from arthritis and it seemed to settle in his hips. A week before he was to undergo a hip replacement, Duke got out of his car on State Street in Springville with his cane. The 64-year old decided not to walk down to the crosswalk where his wife had gone. Roger and Diane were in the theatre across the street waiting. Duke took off across the street. It was dusk and a driver didn't see Duke until it was too late and his car struck him down.
Roger rushed out to the street and to the scene where he held his brother in his arms. He saw the blood from his mouth and knew it was serious. He gave his brother a blessing and looked into his eyes. "I'd been deer hunting. I saw his eyes, just like that of a deer that had been shot and was dying. Duke's eyes glazed over. I never want to hunt deer again."
Duke and Roger Reid believed in Utah athletes. Roger had been a star baseball player in high school and Weber State. They had a philosophy that guys with heart could defeat those with better talent that it took a team to win over an opponent composed of individuals. For both, it worked.
Guys like Schreiner, Gary Trost, Nathan Call they were Roger Reid players, disciplined, teachable, grateful, driven, hungry and humble.
"They were all receptive," Reid remembers. "I've coached in Utah. I know just because you can jump high and you are fast, it doesn't mean you are a great basketball player. I'd rather rely on a guy's heart. And if you have the skills and the intangibles of a guy's heart, you've got the ingredients to make a player and a team.
"I tried to work on a guy's character, his pride, his heart and convince them if they worked hard and had the desire, they could play with anybody. If they set screens, came off screens hard, played good defense, they could elevate their game as a team above that of more talented players. You have to execute. We got hurt on the wing defensively at times against athletic people, but what I felt good about with our program (at BYU) is the people who came in, they improved. Even coming off missions, they improved and that's the job of a coach, to leave people off better than you found them."
People always ask Reid what his most pleasing victory was at BYU. The 65-foot shot by Kevin Nixon to help upset UTEP in the WAC tournament in Fort Collins? That 1994 win at Utah on a 3-point bomb by his son Robbie?
"The most pleasing wins I ever had are those people will never understand and that's probably why I'm coaching at Snow College. When I was coaching at Clearfield and we beat Layton or when I coached at Payson and we beat Spanish Fork our big rivals those wins were every bit as exhilarating as beating Utah or Utah State.
"Nobody understands that, but it's true. It's like last year at Snow, it was one of my best experiences. We didn't win a championship, but under the circumstances, working with those guys and seeing their attitude was as enjoyable as coaching a championship or going to the NCAA. When you are in the thick of it with young men, that is what you remember most. It's all relative but I understand where people think otherwise."
Reid has great respect for Rick Majerus, his old rival. While they had a great competitive run against each other and it was heated, after Reid left BYU, Majerus was one of the first to come to his side and try and lift him up and throw him support. Majerus is certainly one of the greatest adversaries he ever went up against. But Reid also coached against others, like Duke's Mike Krzyzewski in the Maui Classic after beating Memphis State and Penny Hardaway.
Who was the greatest coach he faced? Reid, again, goes back to his roots. "I remember when I was a high school coach and I'd see these guys on TV. I'd watch and see these guys like Coach K. But they aren't half as tough to coach against as many of the high school coaches and nobody will ever know."
After Yao Ming left the Shanghai Sharks, the United States Basketball Federation asked Roger Reid if he'd go to China and coach in that country's version of the NBA. Reid turned it down at first, then agreed to get back in the saddle, his first head-coaching job since leaving BYU. That was three years ago.
"I went to the most beautiful city in China, a place the chairman himself has a summer home. The team was 0-6 or 0-7 or something when I arrived and they were getting beat by 40 or 50 points a game. The game is big over there and they have big arenas and broadcast the games on TV. I didn't realize just how big it was."
Reid had his team practice three times a day leading up to their first game. They got beat by three points. The next game they played the No. 1 team in the league and got beat on a last-second shot. The owner of the team called Reid and praised him for the turnaround and gave him a big raise. TV stations started covering his team, coming to practices and going on the road trips.
In a city of 3 million people, Roger Reid found himself being recognized by taxi drivers and people behind the desk of hotels and people on the street. He made friends with a Chinese general. He'd always heard that Chinese hated Americans, but he found that was not true not in his experience.
"I loved China. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. We played in a 15,000-seat arena and everywhere I went, people said, 'America, freedom, America free.' I heard that over and over again. When I returned home and got off the plane and saw 20 American flags, I had a feeling of gratitude come over me for my country that I cannot explain. We're lucky here.
"You hear a lot of negative things about America with the war going on and all, but I'll tell you, there are people who are giving all they have to immigrate here and get visas and they can't get them. And then there are people who are just walking over the border and coming in. It's perplexing, but that's life."
After his first year in China, he went back for a second run. But during Christmas his son Randy came over. It was 50 below zero. He was on the phone with his kids. Randy told his dad, "You aren't going to do this again, come home, the sacrifices you are making, missing your grandkids, your children, isn't worth it."
This time when he returned, the Snow College job opened up. Reid drove down to Ephraim and met with the 41-year-old Benson. "He sold me. His love of the school was evident."
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