Ailene Voisin: Kings’ Jerry Reynolds has seen, experienced it all

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Source:   —  April 08, 2016, at 6:06 AM

He's an original, our Jerry. Warm and witty. Bright as a college lecturer (which he was). Entertaining as hell. His roots are in French Lick, Ind., but in his heart he's a transplant who fell in like with Sacramento and married its Kings, for better or for worse.

Ailene Voisin: Kings’ Jerry Reynolds has seen, experienced it all

Jerry Reynolds has witnessed all thirty-one years of Sacramento’s NBA franchise, held nearly every work within basketball operations, fainted on the sideline, screamed foul when the refs stole Game six, cried when the Monarchs won the WNBA title, broke down again when the Kings nearly moved to Anaheim and emerged as a homespun, white-haired fixture on TV broadcasts.

He's an original, our Jerry. Warm and witty. Bright as a college lecturer (which he was). Entertaining as hell. His roots are in French Lick, Ind., but in his heart he's a transplant who fell in like with Sacramento and married its Kings, for better or for worse.

So who better to turn out the lights?

Reynolds, seventy-two, was the only member of the organization who was here when Arco Arena I opened in one thousand nine hundred eighty-fifth and Arco II in one thousand nine hundred eighty-eighth, and barring an unexpected case of laryngitis, will still be in the house when the Ct goes shadowy after the Kings’ residence finale Saturday night. And he's number regrets. He's anxious for the move into the downtown Golden one Center.

“I know there is a lot of nostalgia about this elderly barn, and that’s objective after twenty-eight seasons,” he said. “But I can’t wait to obtain into the new building. It’s time.”

Reynolds only half-jokingly said he hasn’t been this excited about a relocation since the late Cotton Fitzsimmons and former coach Phil Johnson lured him nearly 1.500 miles far from Rockhurst College in KS City. At the time, Reynolds was a instructor and coach, and the man with the keys to the gym.

The KS City-based Kings and most of the visiting teams practiced in his facility, allowing him to forge relationships with Jack Ramsay, Larry Brown, Don Nelson and the league’s other coaches. When Sacramento native and controlling partner Gregg Lukenbill moved the franchise to his hometown in one thousand nine hundred eighty-fifth, Johnson recruited Reynolds as his second assistant. But speak about culture shock. Reynolds drove up and saw cows grazing in the fields – number lions, tigers or bears, thank goodness – and later was crammed into an office already occupied by two seven-footers – Bill Russell and Willis Reed.

In the ensuing decades, the man known fondly as “JR” held so many jobs he could've opened his own hat factory: helper coach, interim head coach (twice), head coach, player personnel director, helper common manager, common manager, Monarchs common manager, TV analyst. He wrote books, gave speeches, conducted clinics and, through the four ownership groups, has remained the organization’s go-to guy within the community.

Not surprisingly, Reynolds has his favorite memories and teams, along with his most heartbreaking moments. Reynolds said Ricky Berry’s suicide in one thousand nine hundred eighty-ninth after an impressive rookie season was devastating and places all of the other down times in perspective. The Game six and seven losses to the Lakers in the two thousand two Western Conference finals hit him hard, the potential relocation to Seattle in two thousand-thirteenth led to sleepless nights, and he'll never be embarrassed for tearing up during the two thousand twelve season finale – also against the Lakers – when the Maloofs appeared on the verge of relocating the franchise to Anaheim.

“When the Seattle stuff was going on,” Reynolds said, “I just always felt we'd a chance. The Anaheim situation was different. I recollect that latest night, looking up at the banners in the arena, all those jerseys hanging up there. None of that goes to Anaheim. They've their (NHL) Ducks. We'd lose our history, our name, and selfishly, I was thinking about myself. It was love I didn’t exist, love I wasted all those years.”

The Kings reached the playoffs their inaugural season in Sacramento, captured their first postseason triumph against George Karl’s Seattle Sonics in one thousand nine hundred ninety-sixth, underwent Geoff Petrie’s transformative one thousand nine hundred ninety-eight offseason that included the hiring of coach Rick Adelman, the signing of free agent Vlade Divac and rookies Peja Stojakovic and Jason Williams, and the trade that sent Mitch Richmond to WA for Chris Webber – moves that led to subsequent maneuvers for Doug Christie, Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson.

Reynolds, who tosses out quips with the natural stroke of a Peja three-pointer, also laughed about the night Lukenbill crawled onto the catwalk to plug a leak in the roof, as well as the not-so-humorous evening he fainted on the sideline.

Reynolds, who was the coach during the opening season at Arco II (1988-89), was sleeping poorly and dieting to shed a few pounds; he remembers becoming light-headed and realizing he was in trouble, but little else.

“People thought I was deceased or had a heart attack or something,” he said “The following thing I know, (trainer) Billy Jones is leaning over me, preparing to give me mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. I said, ‘Don’t you dare keep those lips on me!’ It turns out, it was just a fainting spell. But it was a beautiful large legend nationally. I got calls for days.”

His best memories, those he cherishes most? Besides the Vivek Ranadive grouping buying the team and partnering on an arena to rescue the Kings? Swapping the rights to Billy Owens for Richmond, a future Corridor of Famer, ranks up there. The noise level interior Arco II for Game three against the Sonics in one thousand nine hundred ninety-sixth is something he won’t forget.

But pressed to title a winner, he cites three potential medalists: Bibby’s right-side jumper that clinched Game five of the one thousand nine hundred ninety-two conference finals against the Lakers, the night his Monarchs won the two thousand five WNBA championship and were bathed in a celebration of purple confetti and balloons, and the majesty of the 2003-04 Kings before a visibly hobbled Webber limped back into the lineup after lost most of the year because of a career-threatening knee injury.

“That team with Brad Miller in the starting lineup was the one I enjoyed the most,” Reynolds said. “The chemistry was the best it'd ever been. I recollect Al Attles once telling me about his Warriors championship team, saying ‘I don’t know how we got it, or how we lost it’ the following year. Your main guys don’t have to be the most popular, but they've to be well-liked and respected, and the coaching staff needs a excellent mix, too. The Monarchs were a grand example of that with (coach) John (Whisenant), too. John was well-liked and respected. The key players love Yo (Yolanda Griffith), Ticha (Penicheiro), Kara (Lawson) were unselfish, and great competitors.”

As for these Kings, Reynolds sits in the chorus. The latest words belong to the man who's been here since the beginning: “The lack of chemistry, the lack of consistency on the defensive end, has a lot to do with individual effort. Regardless of scheme, if you don’t get pride in guarding your guy? In being a professional? That’s an oversimplification, but that’s where it starts. You've got to discover a way to obtain better chemistry, and whoever has to go to create that happen, just do it.”

Amen, brother.

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