Administrators at the East Sparks school have had to hire just two full-time coaches since that initial school year. That’s about to change. Paul Gray turned in his resignation letter Thursday as the school’s boys basketball coach after 18 years at the helm of the RHS program.
“There’s going to be an adjustment for sure. There’s been a lot of games I’ve coached for sure, probably 500 in the season and another 750 in the spring and summer. There’s been over 300 bus trips,” Gray said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “There are things about coaching I’ll definitely miss.”
Gray, 50, took over the Reed program for the 1989-90 season, following in the footsteps of Paul Kautz. Kautz was hired as the school’s first boys hoop coach in the mid-1970s. Each coach took a 1-year sabbatical during their tenures, but save for those two seasons with interim coaches, the Raiders basketball program has known just the two ‘Pauls.’
“Paul (Gray) called me about 5 o’clock (Thursday) and told me the news,” said Kautz, who has been Gray’s freshman coach in recent seasons. “It was news I didn’t want to hear, but at the same time I know he has to move on with his career.”
Gray, who has six years left before he can retire from the school district, will become Reed’s new dean of students for the freshman class. The veteran coach has been a math teacher for 23 years at Reed.
He said it would have been hard to continue coaching while taking on his new administrative duties.
“This was an opportunity. It’s been three years since a dean’s job last opened. I want to pursue this and see where it leads,” Gray said. “I feel fortunate to work with what I think is a great leadership team at our school. This is a positive career move ... There’s some mixed emotions about basketball, but I’ll still be working with kids, just in a different context.”
In 18 years, Gray’s Raiders’ teams missed the playoffs just four times. Gray took his one year off in the 2000-2001 season. His teams did not miss the playoffs in his final seven years on the bench. In fact, Reed finished first or second in the High Desert League in six of those years, earning the right to host a playoff game on each of those occasions.
In Gray’s first 11 years on the sideline, all before his year off, the Raiders qualified for the state tournament eight times. In his last seven years, Reed earned that distinction just just once, but NIAA rules changed to allow fewer and fewer teams to state in his second stint.
Gray said there will be plenty of things to miss about coaching, especially when his former counterparts are running their summer programs or when the basketball bounces for the first day of official practice in November.
“I’ll miss connecting with the kids in the summer, like going to Great America (theme park) or the beach or the mall. It’s kind of fun to see the kids in contexts other than just games,” Gray said. “I liked practice everyday in the winter, game-planning and watching film. I enjoy all the stuff. There’s not too many things I won’t miss.”
Coaching high school basketball can be tough on families. Gray talked about the basketball season always falling on the holidays. He admitted that family visits were often cut short as the team left for a tournament over the Christmas break.
“We’d get Thanksgving Day and Christmas Day and maybe one more day sandwiched with the holiday but there wasn’t a lot of time off,” Gray said. “I know there have been a lot of years where I was hoping the malls didn’t close before I could finish my shopping.”
Gray’s hard work on and off the court paid off for the Raiders. In addition to the 14 playoff appearances and nine trips to the state tourney, Reed won North Region championships in 1990, 1994 and 2004. Gray was also twice named his league’s coach of the year.
“He’s just an outstanding coach. He’s done great things for Reed basketball,” RHS Athletic Administrator Al Babb said. “He’s a gentleman and a person that deserves a lot of respect. He’ll be missed. There are people that will want the job, but they won’t be able to fill his shoes.”
Coaches around the High Desert League were surprised to hear the news of Gray’s resignation Thursday. Bishop Manogue coach Rick Stevens is a 1990 Reed graduate. He played on Gray’s first Raiders’ varsity team, coached at Reed as an assistant for three seasons and has coached against the Truckee Meadows coaching icon for the past six seasons.
“All I’ve ever known at Reed is Paul Kautz and Paul Gray,” Stevens said. “The best thing is when you look over at the Reed sidelines and see former players on the bench helping out. It shows the relationship he has with those guys. I’ve always had a close relationship with him and consider him a friend.
“He did a great job at Reed for a lot of years. He’ll be missed.”
Dustin Hall, who has assisted Gray the past five seasons and was an all-league guard for Reed in 2001 and 2002, had similar sentiments.
“As long as I’ve known Reed basketball, all I’ve known is coach Gray. “He knows a lot about the game of basketball, but more than just that, he cares about his kids. He wants to see them succeed. He’s a guy who will stick his neck out on the line for his kids, definitely a guy I’d call a players’ coach.”
Babb would not commit to a timetable on when the Reed admistration would have a new coach in place. He said it might be tough to hire a new coach before the school year ends. However, the administrator did say he thought it was in the school’s best interest to get the position opened to applicants quickly.
“I know McQueen also has an opening. I think we need to open the job up pretty quickly,” Babb said. “My thought is we’re going to be fighting over some of the best available people in the county. We want to get it open as soon as we can. We’ll do the best we can, but it won’t be easy. You can’t replace 18 years of experience on the sideline.”