Often times a person is fortunate enough to find their niche in life. They find what they love to do, they do it well, and they find great success doing it. For former Havre native and Havre High Blue Pony standout Tom Reynolds, he found his niche in basketball.
Reynolds has had a life filled with basketball. As a kid his father was the Athletic Director at Montana State University-Northern, so he grew up in a gym and he grew up playing basketball.
In fact, it was his dream from the very beginning to become a PE teacher and a coach. And now he's living that dream at Shelby High School.
“My mom has something at home,” Reynolds said. “That showed in first grade my teacher asking us what we wanted to be when we grew up and I put down a PE teacher and a coach. It’s kind of interesting, not a lot of people get to say that.”
But before he began coaching, when he reached Havre High School, he led one of the most successful Blue Pony programs of all time.
From 1988 to 1991 Reynolds was a super star at HHS. He was a four-year varsity letter winner and earned Class A All State honors in three seasons. Reynolds was also a McDonald's All-American honorable mention after his senior season in 1991. And in that 1991 season, Reynolds led the Ponies to a 22-0 season before losing in the semifinals of the Class A State tournament.
“There is no doubt that was a special year,” Reynolds said. “I think about it a lot sometimes. It was really our continuity, we were just a bunch of kids that grew up together and were highly competitive, got a long with each other and just got after it.”
Reynolds also found good success in college, playing his freshman and sophomore years at Northern Montana College and his junior and senior seasons at Western Montana University where he finished off his NAIA career.
But it’s been his coaching career where Reynolds has really begun to pick up steam.
Reynolds has spent the last 14 years in Shelby, where he was the assistant boys coach for four years and has been the head coach for the last 10. The last three years Reynolds and the Shelby Coyotes have made it to the Class B state title game, but fell just short of the championship. In 2009 Shelby fell to Fairfield 64-60 and in 2010 they fell to Rocky Boy 58-49. But three years ago the Coyotes defeated Fairfield 47-30 to earn Shelby’s first state title since 1955.
“It was pretty special,” Reynolds said. “It had been a lot of years since Shelby has won one. But I always say it’s not even all about that, I always say that I don’t look at it as wins and losses. It’s about working with a group of young kids and trying to develop them into young men and the wins will come. I am just fortunate enough to get to know these kids at a high level. There is nothing like working with a group of kids where you share a common goal and then you reach it.”
Reynold's coaching success came the same way his playing success did. Being surrounded by the game, he was a very highly talented player. And being coached by some of the best coaches across the state, Reynolds also inevitably picked up some pretty good coaching skills and habits.
While at HHS Reynolds was coached by Bob Lanning for all four years, while also playing for assistants Dennis Murphy, Mark West and Brett Hamilton. And while at Northern, Reynolds was coached by Loren Baker and by Mark Durham, and Casey Keltz as well at Western.
“I have been very fortunate to have all sorts of great people around,” Reynolds said. “Now in Shelby I have a great staff and am still very fortunate enough to have great people around me now. But when you grow up around basketball and have such a positive influence, there is no doubt about it, (my dad) was my biggest influence. But there are no secrets, every coach steals some plays or different things from other coaches, but I learned a lot from my dad to work with people.”
Whatever Reynolds is doing, he is doing it right. He came from finding great success on the court as a player, to now finding it as a coach. Now heading for what will hopefully be another successful state tournament run, Reynolds will continue to build on his legacy.
“I don’t feel like it’s a job that I am going to everyday.” I love what I do, I have a passion for it.”
Shelby, making yet another Class B state tournament under the former Blue Pony great, is playing at the state tourney this weekend in Great Falls.