Salpointe Catholic boys basketball coach Jim Reynolds, who coached the Lancers to their first state championship last season, is retiring at the conclusion of this season in order to spend time with his family in Denver.
Reynolds, who is 66, will step down after four seasons with the Lancers, who are trying to defend their state title after advancing to the 4A state semifinals. They play Thursday at 7 p.m. against visiting Surprise Paradise Honors.
Reynolds has 536 career victories dating to his 29 years of coaching in Cincinnati at Wyoming and Madeira high schools. He coached four years at Wyoming (1985-89), 25 years at Madeira (1990-2015) and the last four seasons at Salpointe (2017 to now).
His record with the Lancers is 90-22. He started 3-14 in his first season in 2017-18, which means his record since is 87-8, including the state title last season over Peoria in overtime.
“It’s been four really fun years,” Reynolds said. “I wish I could have been in these circumstances (at Salpointe) earlier in my life, but you know, that’s how life goes sometimes.”
He is lobbying for his replacement to be longtime assistant Eric Castillo, who has been part of staffs that have coached Salpointe to five consecutive state semifinal appearances.
“I really enjoyed coaching with Eric,” Reynolds said. “He wants the job for the first time, so I really hope he gets it. He’s been through five or six head coaches now and he’s an exceptional assistant.”
Reynolds said his experience at Salpointe was “definitely unexpected” because he moved to Marana after retiring at Madeira in 2015. He and his wife Linda bought a house to be closer to their son Ryan, who is Arizona’s director of basketball operations.
Madeira’s opposing teams in his last season had sendoff ceremonies before games.
He became a legend at the Division III school, the equivalent of 2A or 3A in Arizona, in Cincinnati’s northeast side. He coached his teams to 22 winning seasons and 11 Cincinnati Hills League championships. His 1998-99 team is the only one in Madeira history to reach the state semifinals and the school has been open for 63 years.
“I’ve been watching my dad coach since I can remember and the biggest thing I admire about him as a coach is how he always gets the most of out his teams,” Ryan said. “They are never the most talented team, but they always play very well together and understand their roles.
“Basketball is a simple game and my dad is a great leader who makes the game simple so the players can just play. To this day, guys who played for him in the 1980’s and on still keep in touch with him regularly and have been really excited following his teams the last four years in Tucson.”
One of Reynolds’ players at Madeira was major-league baseball player Andrew Benintendi, formerly of the Boston Red Sox and now with the Kansas City Royals. Benintendi became Madeira’s career scoring leader under Reynolds.
Reynolds was not away long from coaching upon his arrival in Tucson. He joined David Thomas’ staff at Pusch Ridge as an assistant coach in 2015-16. Thomas was familiar with Arizona coach Sean Miller having coached his sons in the club circuit and Ryan suggested to his dad to work with Thomas.
Ryan came to Tucson in 2009 with Miller from Xavier, which is located in Cincinnati.
“I didn’t want to define myself when I got out here,” Reynolds said. “I coached for a year at Pusch Ridge and enjoyed just having a hand in it a little bit. I was still teaching at the time, so it kept me busy and then I decided to go cold turkey from coaching for a year (in 2016-17).”
Reynolds retired from physical education teaching following last school year after 43 years in the profession. He concluded his career at Wilson Middle School in the Amphitheater School District.
The one year he was not a teacher was when he was the athletic director at Cincinnati’s Mount Healthy High School in the 12th year of his education career in 1983-84.
“I did not enjoy that year,” he said. “It was like fundraising and I did not get to know the kids. I knew I couldn’t keep doing that. That wasn’t going to be something that I got an education for.”
Two years after that, Reynolds got his wish of teaching and coaching at the same school when Madeira hired him.
Reynolds was born in Norfolk, Va., and moved to a Cleveland suburb when he was five because his father Ted was hired as a salesman in the road construction business there. He started living in Cincinnati at 9 years old when his dad became vice president of sales for a Caterpillar construction and mining equipment dealership.
After graduating from Cincinnati’s Forest Park High School, Reynolds played basketball for one year at Mount Union College near Canton, Ohio. He spent his last three years in college at Miami (Ohio), a time in which he became interested in becoming a basketball coach.
His dad was a relief pitcher at Miami (Ohio), and he mentioned his dad’s “claim to fame is he got a win against the University of Cincinnati in relief and the losing pitcher was Sandy Koufax.”
Reynolds realized after his freshman season at Mount Union, he was not “good enough” to continue his athletic career.
“Playing at Mount Union, I thought that might help me become a better coach, but after experiencing it for a year, and probably just not being good enough to really make a dent as a player, I transferred to Miami and actually went back and basically helped at my old high school through the rest of my time as a college student,” Reynolds said.
He did advanced scouting and coached at Forest Park while student teaching there. After earning his education degree, he was hired at Mount Healthy and took on the junior varsity coaching role. Nine years later, in 1985, he became a head coach for the first time at Wyoming High School while still teaching at Mount Healthy.
“I’ve learned a ton from other people, and I still learn to this day. Some of the things recycle,” Reynolds said. “I’m not like a playbook kind of guy. I don’t really feel like that’s how basketball should be played. I feel like there should be more of a flow and more passing and things like that.
“That’s generally just the evolution of my coaching to a degree. I guess I want my players to understand how to play and I don’t want to be the guy that moves the chess pieces all the time. I don’t want them to be robotic or score off the same type of situation.”
Leading scorer Brady Ramon has mentioned Salpointe’s success this season despite losing all its starters from last year’s championship team is a result of Reynolds “just letting us play.”
“He is a real lenient guy,” Ramon said. “He doesn’t control us with plays or anything like that. He knows that we all can play together and move the ball around. We all have our individual strengths and he just lets us play our game.”
Reynolds made the unconventional move of using his seventh scoring option, senior guard Nico Castaneda, to take the game-winning shot in the 4A state quarterfinal victory over Glendale Deer Valley on Saturday night.
“I provide them different things they can do and they need to figure out when to do it, and it’s unpredictable, which is good,” said Reynolds, who added that his coaching style is similar to Lute Olson’s in terms of letting his team play in transition with structure.
Reynolds did not go cold turkey long in his “year off” from coaching in 2016-17 because he helped analyze teams of coaching friends in Ohio and he spent some time at games on the bench during that winter in Cincinnati after his brother suffered a stroke.
His stint at Salpointe began in 2017 when Miller’s son Braden was a sophomore with the Lancers. Miller requested the school look into the possibility of Reynolds coaching his son, and the hire was made.
The going was rough early for Reynolds after he took over for Brian Holstrom, who a season previously coached the Lancers to the 4A state championship game, in which it lost 81-48 to Phoenix Shadow Mountain and coach Mike Bibby, the Arizona great.
Salpointe’s 3-14 start in Reynolds’ first year was met with criticism and questions about the Lancers’ administration making the right move to replace Holstrom with Reynolds.
That was before a talented guard named Evan Nelson transferred to Salpointe from Mountain View. The Lancers went 12-2 the rest of the season and reached the 4A state championship game, losing to Shadow Mountain 83-79.
“Obviously that was a building block having Evan, a point guard who is not only a sensational athlete, but he is just an all-around good guy,” Reynolds said. “There’s a lot of those kind of guys that I coached last year (including Nelson on the state title team). My gosh they were not only good players, but just quality people from quality families.”
Nelson, a freshman on basketball scholarship at Harvard, credits Reynolds for impacting him “as a person and player profoundly.”
“On the court, Coach Reynolds constantly was pushing me as a leader of the team to excel at the areas where I lacked like communication, which played a huge part in our championship run,” Nelson said. “We had a great relationship and it was the perfect example of how a coach-to-point guard relationship should be.
“As a person, Coach Reynolds always would ensure that all of us as his players were doing well in all aspects of life. For me, I had a few issues off the court that were affecting me mentally, but Coach Reynolds was always there to support however he could. I’ll be forever thankful to have a great coach like Coach Reynolds.”
Reynolds said about his tenure at Salpointe that it was “just being at the right place at the right time” and that his move to Denver means “I’m in the wrong place at the right time now. I’ll be in the right place for my family.”
Reynolds’ wife Linda in the last year has lived with their daughter Erica, son-in-law and their 18-month-old grandson Carter in Denver. Erica is expecting another child in September.
Reynolds drove their last belongings in a moving truck to Denver last week. He is living in Tucson with Ryan until the conclusion of Salpointe’s season.
“I owe a lot to my wife because not only has she put up with all the long hours over the years, she’s such a great sounding board,” Reynolds said. “I’m looking forward to spending more time with her and my daughter’s family.
“It’s time that I start coaching up my grandkids.”
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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.