The carping began before the final seconds had ticked off the clock in Hiland's Div IV state semifinal loss to Fort Jennings.
Maybe the Hiland Hawks would be better off without Perry Reese, Jr, as head coach. After all, this was the third consecutive Final Four appearance for the Hawks without a title to show for the effort.
All of a sudden, winning had become everything among a select few of the Hawk faithful, and they were making their viewpoint known, questioning Reese's role.
Perhaps it was just talk. Perhaps there was nothing behind it. Perhaps it was just frustration.
So I, in turn, offered my opinion on Reese and the situation — the wonderful situation — at Hiland. How discipline toward school attendance and grades was demanded as equally as was attention to fine details on the basketball court.
How it was nonsense that some thought Reese was no longer a fit at Hiland, that he was being measured not by the good he was doing — and had done — for hundreds of East Holmes district children. Instead, he was being measured by state titles, and the one captured in 1992 wasn't enough.
Today, I'm positive as never before of Reese's value and stature in the Hiland community and in our area, and I can't write this without tears coming to my eyes.
For Hiland is going to replace Perry Reese, but against its will and under the worst conditions — his sudden and seemingly hopeless illness.
It is hard to imagine what four short months have wrought. Four short months since we exchanged questions and answers, and less than three months since Reese offered his thanks for my column.
We weren't social friends. I was never invited to his home, nor he mine. We never associated outside the basketball arena, unless we touched base via random phone calls.
Yet, I can't imagine having greater admiration for a coach. Unlike so many coaches, and particularly basketball coaches whose egos have run amuck, Reese wasn't interested in the spotlight and publicity. And once we learned that Reese was never going to put himself or an individual player above the team, it didn't take long for us to forge what I viewed as a special bond.
Reese was content to have zero coverage in the early years, but as time evolved, he became comfortable dealing with the media. Players were off-limits always, but Reese would answer every question and I can say never ducked one of mine.
Other writers had difficulty accepting Reese's approach of playing the game against itself. A 40-point win with 20-odd turnovers and 30 percent shooting was sure to draw his ire, and some people never understood Reese's view that those problems, allowed unchecked, would soon lead to a loss against either a lesser opponent or in a must-win game.
I know I would have willingly played for him. I would without hesitation have loved to have had my son play for him, to be around him, to absorb as man Perry Reese-isms as he could.
It could only make him a better young man, and what better way to be steered into young adulthood.
I know the Hiland community's outpouring of concern, help and hope will be enormous. And I'm not much of the praying type, but you can be assured of one thing: There won't be a day when my thoughts won't be with Reese.
There may even be a prayer as well, for as long as there is life, there is hope.
That, unfortunately, is all I have to offer Perry Reese at this point. If there was anything else, I'd be offering it.
And I'd probably be 1,000th in line.