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Kings honor Reynolds, longtime broadcaster, coach, executive originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The 2020-21 season is different for the Sacramento Kings. Regardless of what happens on the court, there is something missing. Make that someone.
After 35 years of service, Jerry Reynolds has decided to call it quits. The former Kings assistant coach, head coach, general manager (both Kings and Monarchs), director of player personnel, color analyst and lead analyst is walking off into the sunset, but not without some recognition from the only NBA franchise he’s known.
From here on out, the media entrance to Golden 1 Center will officially be named the “Jerry Reynolds Media Entrance.” There will be a plaque and pictures adorning the walls leading into the arena, and signage on the outside of Golden 1 Center for fans to visit.
“I’m very very pleased, amazed, gratified, all of the above,” Reynolds told NBC Sports California. “I never expected it. I certainly don’t mean to indicate that I deserve it, because I don’t, but it’s very much appreciated regardless, whether I deserve it or not.”
This is Reynolds in a nutshell. He is self-deprecating and funny. He’s also kind, generous and one of the best people you’ll ever meet in this business.
Deep down, he is a country boy from French Lick, Indiana, who somehow lived out a life that he never expected. A transplant that found a home in Sacramento and built a legacy.
When Reynolds joined the Kings prior to their move from Kansas City in 1985, it was with the approach that he wouldn’t last long in the NBA. He believed that joining a professional staff would open doors for him back in the college game, perhaps even a top tier job with a major program.
“My hope at that time was that I would be an assistant coach and hopefully the team would do well and I would be an assistant coach for a few years and then go back to college,” Reynolds said. “I would put myself in probably a little bit better position, maybe get a Division I coaching job.”
Reynolds had no idea what was in store for him. Midway through his second season on the Kings’ bench, head coach Phil Johnson, who had hired Reynolds out of the college ranks, was relieved of his duties.
Kings general manager, Joe Axelson, tabbed Reynolds for the job on an interim basis, extending his stay in Sacramento indefinitely. This was the first of two stretches where he would take over the head coaching reigns in Sacramento, but it was also a day that Reynolds considers one of the darkest days of his career.
“The day Phil Johnson was fired with Frank Hamlin, and I was put in as an interim head coach, that was really a low point for me, because those were my friends,” Reynolds said. “I didn’t want the job, but I needed the job. A lot of people could identify with that.”
Reynolds would take over head coaching duties again the following season when he replaced Hall of Famer Bill Russell with 24 games remaining in the season. He would stay on for two more years before moving to the front office.
In his years running the Kings, Reynolds is credited with drafting players like Lionel Simmons and Walton Williams, and trading for Spud Webb and Danny Ainge. He also made the trade that brought Hall of Famer Mitch Richmond to Sacramento for forward Billy Owens.
During the 1995 season, Reynolds tried his hand on the broadcasting side on a part-time basis and was a natural fit alongside play-by-play announcer Grant Napear. The pair formed one of the best NBA broadcasting teams until the 2017-18 season when Reynolds stepped down from full-time duty.
“The most fun for me, and the job I enjoyed the most, was being color analyst on the broadcast for the games,” Reynolds said.
For years, Reynolds worked double and sometimes triple duty for the Kings while calling games. He was the team’s director of player personnel from 1994-2013. He also ran the Sacramento Monarchs from 1998-2003 and helped build the roster that would win the 2005 WNBA title.
During his 35 seasons with the franchise, Reynolds worked under four different ownership groups, saw six different general managers walk through the door, and is one of 18 head coaches to man the post over the stretch.
Reynolds outlived Arco I and Arco II, the franchise’s first two home arenas in Sacramento. He never thought he would see the day when a building like Golden 1 Center would exist in the capital of California.
“It’s remarkable, I would have never envisioned anything like where the franchise currently is -- the Golden 1 Center, the fabulous building it is in Downtown Sacramento,” Reynolds said. “The idea of something like that when I first came to the Kings as an assistant coach and worked in the little building, the original Arco I, to think there could be a Golden 1 Center, I couldn’t even imagine it.”
Reynolds has seen almost everything imaginable during his time in Sacramento. From the golden era of Kings basketball under head coach Rick Adelman from 1998-2006, to the current 14-year playoff drought, Reynolds has been a familiar voice to help navigate the waters.
Out of all of his time with the franchise, there are a few moments that stand out above the rest.
“The very first game I was a part of in the original Arco was just so special and in some ways, the last game in Arco II, when the organization brought back guys from all the different eras, I just thought those were special, very special memories that take on more value as time goes on,” Reynolds said.
You can’t be with a franchise without seeing some dark times as well. He still shies away from discussing the death of star young guard Ricky Berry during the 1988 offseason, and he was outside the hospital room door praying for Bobby Hurley following his near fatal car crash in 1993.
Like every fan old enough to remember, the Kings’ Game 7 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals still lingers for Reynolds.
“I think about it every now and then, I still do,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds will take those memories with him as he heads into retirement. Known for his witty catch phrases and country charm, Reynolds has seen it all, he’s done it all, and after 35 years, he wants to leave on his own terms.
“At 76, I’ve spent 54 years really dedicating my life to the game of basketball and being a full-time employee,” Reynolds said of his departure. “Honestly, I know I’ve lost a step, my mind isn’t as sharp, things don’t come to me as quickly. And I do want to spend more time with my family. If not now, then when?”
If Reynolds has lost a step, it’s news to anyone who has watched him over the years. He has contemplated this decision for a while and had conversations about stepping away for the last two off-seasons. His decision now comes with a clear conscience.
“I’m really happy with the decision. I know it was the right decision. It wasn’t something I was rushed into,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds has been the heartbeat of the Kings’ franchise for decades. His farewell sign-off with Napear following the final game of the 2010-11 season when it looked like the franchise was relocating to Anaheim was the purest moment in franchise history.
On a personal note, I will take great joy walking through the Jerry Reynolds Media Entrance at Golden 1 Center for as long as I am allowed in the building. Jerry is an icon in Sacramento, but he is so much more for those who have had the privilege of knowing him behind the scenes.
Jerry is a mentor, a friend and fellow basketball junkie. He’s made an incredible impact on my career, and he’s meant even more to me, personally, off the court. I’m looking forward to seeing where his new adventure in retirement takes him.