Jon Teitel's Coaching Greats Interview Series: Eastern Washington's W.B. "Red" Reese

October 25th, 2010
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In the most recent installment in his Coaching Greats interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with John Reese, the son of Eastern Washington coaching great W.B. "Red" Reese. Coach Reese coached the Eagles in track and football in addition to basketball, winning almost 70% of the events in which he was involved. Coach Reese won twelve conference titles at EWU and his 1946 team won a school-record 27 consecutive games against collegiate competition, and Eastern Washington's home court now bears his name.

Jon Teitel: What was he like as a father, and how did he balance his coaching jobs with his family life?

John Reese: He was a good father who tried to do a lot for his kids, and he did a good job of balancing his coaching with his family. He coached football/basketball/track when he first arrived at EWU, and when football/basketball overlapped in the fall, he would come home from football practice, eat a quick meal and take a nap, then head back out to basketball practice.

JT: In 1930 he won a state championship at North Central HS. Why did he leave to go to EWU?

JR: I assume that he thought it was a promotion, but I never heard him say why he did that.

JT: In World War II he served as physical fitness officer and football coach for the 2nd Air Force. Why did he join the Air Force, and how did your family cope with that?

JR: We were with him that whole time after he was commissioned in 1942. He was too young to serve in WWI, so I think he just figured this was his chance to serve his country. We started out at the Air Force headquarters in Spokane, and later moved to Colorado Springs.

JT: In 1946 his basketball team finished 31-4, including a school record 27-game winning streak versus collegiate competition, then won two games in the NAIA tourney before falling to Pepperdine. Was that his best season ever, and how was he able to have so much success in his 1st year back after the war?

JR: He was a real good coach and had some real good talent including Irv Leifer (the best player he ever coached), although he had the shortest team in the whole tourney.

JT: He was instrumental in the founding of the NAIA, serving as NAIA president in 1952. Why did he get involved with the NAIA, and how did he like being president?

JR: He felt there was a need for small college teams to have an association similar to the NCAA, and often commented about the nice people he met.

JT: As EWU track coach he won 23 league titles in 31 seasons, and as EWU football coach he won six conference titles in 13 seasons. Which sport did he enjoy the most, and which do you think he was best at?

JR: I know that he enjoyed track the most, which surprised me. He said it was because in those days most of the high school track coaches were just professors who coached track on the side. He could tell if he was making good headway as a coach by seeing if he could improve their times/heights. Additionally, the nice spring weather made it fun to coach track outdoors.

JT: He also served as AD from 1938-1962. How did he like that job compared to his coaching gigs?

JR: He preferred coaching to being an administrator.

JT: He is a member of the Washington State Hall of Fame. What did it mean to him to win such an outstanding individual honor?

JR: He was a member of several Halls of Fame. He played basketball at Pullman, but was inducted as a coach rather than as an athlete, and enjoyed the honor very much.

JT: EWU ended up naming its basketball court after him. Could you think of any better tribute to your father, and how proud are you of all that he accomplished?

JR: We are very proud of it. Some of our kids are really good athletes, and two of my nieces have even played on that court!

JT: When people look back on his career, how would he want to be remembered the most?

JR: He would want to be remembered as honest and fair, even though he was a tough disciplinarian, as were most other coaches back then. I remember hearing him scream and yell at his players, but after they graduated they would come back to visit and have a cup of coffee with him.

Coach Reese is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Big Sky history.

Eastern Washington: W.B. "Red" Reese (1930-1942, 1945-1964) 473-298, 12 conference titles
Idaho State: Jim Killingsworth (1971-1977) 163-109, two NCAA Tournament appearances, three conference titles, two-time conference Coach of the Year
Montana: Blaine Taylor (1991-1998) 141-66, two NCAA Tournament appearances, two conference titles, conference Coach of the Year
Montana State: G Ott Romney (1922-1928) 144-31
Northern Arizona: Mike Adras (1999-present) 158-136, one NCAA Tournament appearance, two conference titles, conference Coach of the Year
Northern Colorado: George Sage (1963-1968) 95-36, four conference titles
Portland State: Ken Edwards (1972-1978) 94-63
Sacramento State: Jerome Jenkins (2000-2008) 80-147
Weber State: Neil McCarthy (1974-1985) 205-105, four NCAA Tournament appearances, five conference titles, three-time conference Coach of the Year