Paul Reed looked out of his window at the Marriott by the Arizona campus and became moved by what he saw.
“I see over there that I’m right here by Tucson High,” Reed, an assistant basketball coach at Washington, said incredulously. “It’s surreal. You never envision this. You never thought this would be.
“But every year I come back, I am like, ‘Oh my God, I’m like actually coaching against the University of Arizona.”
Washington plays Arizona today at noon at McKale Center. Reed is making his fourth return to Tucson as part of the Huskies’ staff.
He was raised in Tucson by his mom Karen, who still occupies the house where he grew up.
“Believe it or not, she just finished her 40th year as a cashier at Safeway on the westside,” Reed said. “She’s my heart. She’s the one who taught me work ethic. She taught me how to build relationships and sustain great relations with people.”
Reed, 48, graduated from Amphi High School in 1990 as a standout football and basketball player.
Before he got into coaching, he worked with Tucson Urban League to help struggling families in Tucson. He holds dearly those who helped him become entrenched with the community including the Tucson Urban League’s Maiola Coleman and Vertie Sparks.
He is thankful that former Tucson High assistant principal Kathy Thompson provided him the opportunity to start his coaching career with the Badgers’ girls basketball program from 2005 to 2011.
“I’ve had a lot of people who invested in me and showed me the way that I feel like I have to do it. They’re my drive,” Reed said.
Reed became involved with coaching first as a volunteer assistant because of the friendships he developed with coaches in the community such as Tucson High coach Jerry Curtis and assistant Earl Leach.
After getting his break as the head coach at Tucson after Curtis stepped down, Reed served as the coach at Cienega from 2012-14.
He led the Badgers to four state tournaments and three regional titles. He coached Cienega to a pair of appearances in the state tournament. He helped the Bobcats reach the Division II state finals for the first time in program history.
He finished with a 129-63 overall record at Tucson and Cienega.
“When I first started out, I tried to do the AAU circuit because I was just trying to get into different environments for basketball,” said Reed, who also spent three years as coach of the Tucson Heat Basketball Club. “I started the Lady Badger Basketball Camp because I wanted to reach back to our middle schools and inspire young ladies and show them that if they wanted to play basketball, Tucson High was a good place to be.”
Reed developed a friendship with former Arizona coach Niya Butts because of his visibility with local youth basketball development. That led to him personally training some of her basketball players.
The exposure to working out college athletes coupled with his friendship with Tucson High star Rashida Jeffery were contributing factors to him coaching at the next level.
After her career with the Badgers from 1988 to 1992, Jeffery went on to play at USC, where Washington coach Jody Wynn and her husband Derek were assistant coaches.
“Jody and Rashida are best friends, so after my first year at Tucson High, Rashida was able to connect me with Jody and her husband at USC and I got to work their elite camp that summer,” Reed said. “It was a great experience. It was an opportunity for me to see top players in the West Coast.
“It was also an opportunity for me to see what a college environment was like. Just being able to work with those kids who were at a high-level camp — there were a lot of great athletes there — was a great experience for me as a coach starting out.”
The relationship between the Wynns and Reed continued to grow which led to him being hired as an assistant coach at Long Beach State with them in 2014.
Reed went with the Wynns to Washington in 2017 after Jody Wynn was hired to replace Jim Neighbors, who left to coach at Arkansas. They took over the Husky program a year after Adia Barnes left that program as an assistant to become the head coach at Arizona, her alma mater.
Before this season, Reed was elevated to recruiting coordinator with the Huskies.
“I was blessed along the way because it’s about relationships and staying in contact with people who are unique,” Reed said. “My relationship developed with Jody for nine or 10 years before I started coaching with her at Long Beach State.
“I’m in a situation now where Jody and Derek allow me to get hands-on experience doing recruiting, skill development, academics, all the areas that assistant coaches can be involved with. I like that experience being that this is my first year as a recruiting coordinator. I’m still trying to master that.”
Reed also discussed the relationships he built around the game in Tucson as major factors to development. He rattled off a list of names including Pima coach Todd Holthaus, Tucson High boys coach Eric Langford, Sahuaro coach Steve Botkin and Mountain View boys coach Corey Duck.
“I was always taught by mom never forget where you came from,” Reed said. “I always try to reach back to all the coaches that I either faced or that I had a good relationship with, just to check in with them. I’ve been blessed to work with a lot of great people that have given me opportunities to grow and that have showed me the way and empowered me.”
Reed believes that although he is no longer coaching in Tucson he can still have an impact on the lives of those here who are involved with basketball.
“Being away from Tucson,” he said, “I feel like it’s my opportunity to show the young adults and young kids out there that through hard work and relationships, you can achieve whatever you put your mind to.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.