John Reynolds was 17 while living in his hometown of Rochester, N.Y., and working a summer job when he scouted out a prize automobile. It was a rare Jaguar.
“The guy had it in his barn,” Reynolds recalls. “I don’t think this guy knew what it was. I don’t think I knew what it was, you know? He wanted like $600. Seriously. And I said, ‘I’ve worked all summer, I can buy this.’ This car was pretty nice. It had all tiger oak trim, all wood. These little trays came out in the back seats. It was an unbelievable car. I ended up selling it when I got married. I don’t remember (for how much) but it was a lot. A guy from Connecticut flew in to buy it from me.”
Reynolds was a natural at finding a diamond in the rough.
Through the years, he’s traveled far and wide. At one point, Reynolds had a starting five on the Florida Tech women’s basketball team who all were natives of different countries. And he won. And he’s kept winning. At one point, you could count on one hand the number of sports the school fielded. Now it takes a huge room to fill the entire school’s staff.
Times have changed. Who knows where the Jaguar is these days? But the Panthers’ program keeps cruising along as Reynolds, who looks more like 45 than his real age, still has an incredible love for what he is doing. And now he’s starting to edge his way into the history books — not locally, but on the national level.
How did he get here?
By having a real eye for a Jaguar athlete while others were piling up clunkers.
Reynolds was an assistant coach at Florida Tech during the 1986-87 season, the program’s first year. He’d moved from Rochester in the mid-’80s and was building homes when the chance to help out seemed like fun. Paul Ward left after one year to become a men’s assistant at Boston College and Reynolds took over.
“I never thought it would be a career,” Reynolds said. “I thought it would be a one- or a two-year deal, you know what I mean? I was still a contractor building houses, doing renovations. There’s no crystal ball. You don’t know how you’re going to end up. I was in a position I didn’t think I’d enjoy it, and then I enjoyed it a little bit … 25 plus years and I’m still here.”
Reynolds, who will be 63 in February, is approaching 500 career wins. If he coaches another half-dozen seasons, which seems entirely possible, his numbers should be amazing. Legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt won an NCAA record 1,098 games in her career, but that was over 38 years. Only 720 of those came in her first 25 years.
Could he reach 1,000?
“What are you, crazy?” he said. “I mean, seriously. I never thought about 500. To be honest with you, I never thought about 100. I’m happy right now. I could tell you right now, the only reason I know how many wins I have is because (others at the school) remind you of stuff that I really feel is so unimportant.”
What matters to Reynolds? He rings off name after name of success stories of players who have come through his locker room through the years.
“I think more about the relationships I’ve had with those kids,” he said. “I think that’s far more important. The easiest thing coaches do, at least in Division II because I’ve never been in Division I or Division III, I think the easiest thing we do is coach our games.”
At the end of the 2013-14 season, there were four active head coaches in women’s NCAA college basketball approaching 600 wins on any level. And there’s no indication he’s had enough. For decades, his teams practice around 5:30 a.m. until the conference schedule starts. On this day, he was in his office at 4:20 a.m.
“You see that little parking spot, where I’ve got that pickup parked under that oak tree?” he said. “You can always tell the first coach here. Hey, there’s got to be some benefit to showing up that time of day.”