Before we all become depressed, hide under the covers, start digging up some of those corny, but cool Jerryisms, let’s just take a deep breath.
Jerry Reynolds is not going anywhere. True, he is stepping down as the team’s full-time television analyst – and this was his call, by the way – but he isn’t kicking himself to the curb yet, for a couple of reasons. One, he happens to be one of the most youthful-looking, white-haired, 74-year-old geezers on the planet. And two, while managing his diabetes is increasingly problematic as the frequent flyer miles trend toward the billions, he concedes it is nothing compared with attempting to control his addiction to basketball.
The man is a hoops lifer. Born in French Lick, Ind., a few blocks from the future birthplace of one Larry Joe Bird, he accompanied the Kansas City Kings to Sacramento in 1985 and never left. As he changes hats for what seems like the zillionth time, moving from the game booth to the Pre/Post set inside Golden 1 Center, he has every intention of sticking around and analyzing the organization’s rebirth.
“I thought if I could just work the home games, that might allow me to stay alive long enough to see the Kings in the playoffs,” he said, chuckling, before Wednesday’s season finale against the Houston Rockets. “I just want to see them in the postseason one more time.”
Given that the team is in the early phases of a rebuild, Reynolds figures to be around awhile.
In all seriousness, though, his health concerns have persisted for the past few years. The NBA road is a long, strange and exhausting trip. The travel takes a physical toll even though teams stay in posh hotels, fly charter and are served gourmet cuisine. There is no substitute for sleeping in your own bed and slipping under the covers during conventional hours – a pipe dream for members of NBA teams who see more sunrises than a 21-year-old club hopper in Manhattan.
“I don’t talk about my diabetes much,” Reynolds said, “but as you get older, the traveling makes it harder. I take a couple of shots a day now, plus medication. The different times you eat was a factor as well. So I honestly felt this was the right time to transition to something else.”
Reynolds is nothing if not flexible, as long as the changes involve his adopted hometown and professional basketball. In his 32 years with the franchise, he has been assistant coach, head coach, general manager, director of player personnel and color analyst.
Yet one of his most significant contributions involves women, not men: The only championship banner hanging from the Golden 1 Center rafters belongs to the Monarchs, the now defunct WNBA team that Reynolds assembled and John Whisenant coached to the 2005 title while functioning in a toxic environment, and amid constant resistance from the Kings basketball operations department.
Then, as now, he champions righteous causes and serves comfort food for the whole person. He is the Kings' utility man in the street, the loyal employee who – along with his other duties – never refuses an autograph, is the go-to guy for charitable appearances and community functions, makes friends of all ages, and of all circumstances. His presence in Golden 1 Center elevates everyone’s game. He earns points for being a good guy and a folksy, informative analyst, and extra bonus points because he is just so darn funny.
“One of the things I like about the pre- and postgame (setup),” he continued, “is that the booth is close to the fans (on the main concourse). I get to talk to them as I walk to the set, or move down to the court. Selfishly, I would really miss the association with the fans, the players, the coaches on the other team. So if this works out, I’ve got another three or four years. That’s how I’m looking at it.”
And this is no one-sided relationship. When a tribute played on the large video screen during a second-quarter timeout, the fans rose and let him have it. As the camera showed him sitting in the booth, with his headset on, and he was introduced by Scott Moak as "the one, the only, Jerry Reynolds," he was cheered lustily by the sellout crowd and greeted with chants of "Jerry, Jerry, Jerry." Visibly moved, he fought back tears as the applause lingered and play resumed.
"It’s hard to step in for a legend,” noted Doug Christie, who will join Grant Napear next season on game telecasts. “Even from my playing days, he was always so gracious. Smiling face. Always informational. Questions you got, he answered. He has never changed, and in this day and age, you don’t run into that.”
So, like we said, relax everyone. The local legend, the franchise icon, the Monarchs man of the hour – of perpetuity – isn’t retiring, he’s simply changing hats for the zillionth-and-one time. You will just have to look a little harder to find him next season, that’s all.