hawkhoops.com | Perry Reese Jr 1952-2000
Reese loses battle


BERLIN — You can bet Perry Reese wouldn't have liked this one bit.

He wouldn't have cared for the crowd which had assembled because of him nor would he have cared for all the long faces and red eyes.

In his mind, he would have thought he had done a better job of preparing and teaching people young and old, about life.

But, it was because of how he taught people, because of how he cared, that the tears flowed readily Wednesday night at a community gathering at the Hiland Gymnasium.

That gym will soon have a name in Reese's memory, to honor his 16 years of work in the East Holmes community. It will be a fitting tribute to the 48-year-old Reese, who succumbed to a 5-month battle against an inoperable brain tumor shortly after 10 am, Wednesday at Walnut Hills Retirement Center.

Reese, who had forgone treatments for the cancer after weighing the opinions of several different experts across the United States, had been admitted to Walnut Hills two weeks ago when the cancer had made it physically impossible for him to care for himself.

The crowd gathered at 7 pm in the lobby of the gymnasium to view scrapbooks and photographs of Reese's 16 years at the school and didn't break up until 9 pm. And all this for Holmes County's lone "Black Amishman," as Reese jokingy called himself.

It goes to show what Reese meant to many people and why his presence will resonate for years to come, something virtually everyone agreed with.

To those who didn't know him, Reese was a highly successful basketball coach, as evidenced by his resume. One state title, that in 1992, 11 Inter-Valley Conference crowns, 12 sectional championships, five regional crowns and a glistening 304-85 record at Hiland.

For those people who did know him, he was much, much more, and that is why Reese's passing hit like a sledgehammer.

"Perry was a Catholic in Holmes County and he was black," said Hiland Superintendent Gary Sterrett, who got to know Reese before he came to Hiland. "He did a tremendous job in terms of race relations in the community. He was truly an outstanding individual.

"If people paid attention to Perry he taught them more than they realized."

Reese's teachings will continue this year as his former assistants and players will take over.

"We're please that Keith (Troyer), Craig (Hershberger) and Chester Mullet have agreed to take over this year," said Sterrett. "They'll do a lot of things Perry did and some things different, but all three have the kids' best interests at heart."

But, he also knows how difficult the season will be for everyone.

"We have three good men, but it's a tough spot for them," Sterrett said. "Every time the kids walk into a gym, they will have different memories of Perry."

Troyer was a two-time All-Ohio player under Reese on a team which advanced to the Final Four in 1986. He eventually came back to assist Reese on the bench and agreed to take the team over for a year.

"You think of all the good things and good times in the past 15 years," said Troyer, who was first introduced to the man who would become his head coach when Reese was head coach at Guernsey Catholic. "When we found out he was coming to Hiland (as an assistant to then Hiland coach Charlie Huggins), we were excited to have him here."

But, the lasting memory of Reese will be that of a friend.

"There were times when I was down and I needed to talk with someone, he was always the one to go to," Troyer said. "He was straight forward and it may not be what you liked to hear, but always honest with you.

"How do you get through life? This is one of his last lessons to us, how we get through this."

As far as athletic director Colin Mishler is concerned, Reese's void will be felt everywhere.

"I've often said if Perry left, we'd miss him more in school and as a friend than as a coach," Mishler said.

"He meant so much to us in school. Sometimes he was the only one who could talk to kids. You don't make that up easily, to have that kind of rapport and respect of the kids. He could really talk with them. He was a great life teacher.

"Some of the kids right now are having more difficulty because they know if he were here, he'd be all over them for decisions they're making or not making, the lifestyle they're choosing... they knew exactly where he was coming from and knew he was right and knew eventually he'd talk with them.

"He was really valuable for our school and community."

Reese came to Berlin without a teaching position and he spent two years working at Berlin Wood Products, which is where he met Gerald Miller. Not surprisingly, even that job was linked to kids.

"He worked in the shop assembling the kids' wagons for two years," said Miller, who stopped in to see Reese every day after finding out about the tumor in late June. "We became very good friends and it just got better.

"My son was a ballboy at the time, and I'd pick him up from practice and I'd talk to Perry there, too, when he was an assistant with Charlie.

"I don't call him coach, I always called him Perry or P. Coaching was just incidental as far as I'm concerned.

He was sent to this community for a reason. I'm convinced of that. Everyone comes up and says how lucky you were to get him or how fortunate, but it wasn't that at all.

"We were blessed. I don't know how we could have learned more from anybody else."

Miller was at Reese's side daily and helped him create a scholarship program that will bear the late coach's name.

"I hope we did everything we could," Miller said. "I know he was disappointed by the prognosis, but he wanted... to continue to keep helping kids, right up to the end. But, he wanted nothing (released) until he wasn't here."

Even Reese needed an outlet now and then. As such, no one was more surprised than Meadowbrook coach Tom Boehm when he found out recently that Reese considered him his mentor.

Their relationship began when Boehm was at Zanesville Rosecrans and Reese was coaching at Guernsey Catholic. Those decisions went Boehm's way, "but we were fortunate... he didn't have the athletes I had," Boehm laughed.

Still, Boehm was surprised to find out Reese's admiration for him.

"It was kind of strange. I really didn't know until after he took sick this year that everyone said I was his mentor," Boehm said. "I wondered how I became his mentor and he told me he followed a lot of Rosecrans games, especially when Rosecrans played Buckeye Trail, and Terry Leggett coached Buckeye Trail. He liked to watch that game.

"I had more influence on him than I thought and he claimed he learned a lot about basketball by the way I coached, which is very flattering considering the success he had in coaching."

If Reese could hide his respect from Boehm, his caring nature was readily apparent.

He was more than a coach," Boehm said. "Maybe when I'm in coaching heaven where he is, I'll know the truth.

"You look at how many lives he's touched, including mine, very much so, and how many young men he's had go out in the work world and be successful and have successful lives and raise a family.

"He's taught them the values of the game." Boehm added. "I always emphasize that myself — you learn more about life on the basketball court and basically don't pay the price we do in life.

"We had the same thing in common in that he was single and I am single, too. The kids were our families so to speak... and as a result we put more time in than people who had families.

"I find it very flattering he'd talk that way. He was a great friend and he'll be sorely missed, not only by me, but many others."