The pressure is building for Perry Reese.
Reese, who replaced Charlie Huggins as head coach of Hiland's boys basketball team in August, said the closer he gets to the start of basketball season, the more pressure he feels.
"I've been told (by the fans) I have to beat West Holmes and Garaway and Strasburg. And, I have to beat Waynedale because it's the first game of the season. They'll let me lose about two games total," Reese said, with a smile.
Reese said he faced a different kind of pressure when he moved into the community two years ago to become Huggins' varsity assistant coach.
"I was somewhat apprehensive about the community — not whether I would like the kids and the people, but whether the community would get along with me," Reese said.
"I was different, coming into their world, and I knew they'd have to adjust to it. I didn't think the community would be ready for (a black coach)."
However, Reese said those apprehensions are all in his past now. He said the community has been extremely helpful and friendly, and he feels "right at home" now.
"I feel like a black Amishman," he said, laughing.
Although Reese said he has been getting support from everybody — the Booster Club, parents and Hiland principal Roger Ramseyer, among others — the kids have really made him feel welcome.
In fact, it was the Hiland kids that helped him decide to come to Holmes County two year ago, when Huggins asked him to be his assistant coach.
"I had met a lot of the (Hiland basketball players) at coach Huggins' basketball camps, where I worked for several years. They were all extremely nice and well-mannered, more so than in other schools," he said.
"So when Huggins asked me (to come), the kids said, 'Coach , come,' and here I am," he said.
Reese said he has always wanted to "work with and try to help kids." However, his original plan to do this didn't involve coaching.
After graduating from Canton Timken High School, where he played football, he entered Kent State University, hoping to major in criminal justice. He passed the test for the Canton City Police Department, but because the police department was laying off policemman at the time, he decided to go to college.
Reese later decided to change his major to physical education and history. After two years at Kent State, where he played basketball, he transferred to Muskingum College because it "had one of the better history programs in the state," Reese said.
It was at Muskingum, that Reese said he "kind of fell into coaching."
Although Reese had coached a church youth team and was volunteer coaching assistant for Canton Central Catholic while at Kent, his serious coaching experience began at Guernsey Catholic High School, which is located in the same town as Muskingum College. At Guernsey, Reese coached girls varsity volleyball, boys varsity basketball and baseball and served as athletic director.
Reese's plans changed, however, when he returned home from Huggins' 1982 summer camp only to find the school unexpectedly had closed down, two weeks before the school year was to start.
The rest is history, and now Reese faces a new kind of pressure.
"Coach Huggins is a tough act to follow," he said. "This is a basketball community. They want a winner, and we (the team) want a winner. So that's a lot of pressure."