Even with the Coronavirus pandemic slowing things to a crawl, Chadron State College Director of Athletics Joel Smith said it didn’t take long for word to get out that the Eagles needed a new head men’s basketball coach.
Almost as soon as the University of Northern Colorado posted on its website last Tuesday that Houston Reed, the Eagles’ head hoops mentor the past four years, had accepted an assistant coaching post at the Greeley institution, Smith said he was being contacted by potential applicants.
“Right after the word was out that Houston was leaving us, I was getting e-mails and phone calls,” Smith said. “Lots of guys seem interested in the job. I’m sure we’ll have many applicants.”
That number had already reached about 50 by the end of last week, Smith said.
In early May 2016 when Reed was announced as the Eagles’ new coach, Smith said he was the selection committee’s top choice from among 160 applicants.
Smith is hoping a new coach can be named soon, but said he process will take some time while the opening is posted properly and he lines up a new selection committee to screen the candidates.
Smith has been working under a handicap. The previous week he slipped on ice and suffered a broken fibula in his left leg that required surgery in Rapid City. Because he had to leave the state, he was then quarantined at home for two weeks. However, with modern communications, he’s been able to take care of business, he said.
Reed’s invitation to move to Northern Colorado came from Steve Smiley, his basketball teammate at Northern State at Aberdeen, S.D., from 2002-04. Smiley had been the associate head coach at Northern Colorado the past four years and was named the Bears’ head coach on March 17, almost immediately after Jeff Linder, who had led the UNC program the past four years, was appointed the head hoops mentor at the University of Wyoming.
The Bears have been successful. They had an 80-50 record the past four seasons, including three consecutive 20-win seasons. They were 22-9 this year and the No. 2 seed heading into the Big Sky Conference Tournament, which was among the many postseason events that were cancelled.
Reed said he was surprised when Smiley contacted him. “It’s a great opportunity and I couldn’t pass it up,” he stated.
Smiley said he was looking forward to having Reed work with the post players, help with recruiting “and just helping me with all his knowledge.”
Prior to coming to Chadron State, Reed was the head coach at Otero Junior College at LaJunta, Colo., for 10 years, compiling a 174-110 record, including a 117-46 mark the final five years. His last team there won the Region IX Southern Division championship and he was voted the region’s Coach of the Year for the second time.
Reed also played his first two years of college basketball at Otero and, as a 6-foot-7 center, set the Rattlers’ single-game scoring record of 46 points.
Unfortunately, the success he enjoyed at Otero did not continue at Chadron State. The Eagles were 22-88 the past four season, led by a 12-16 record in 2018-19. This year’s 4-24 record was particularly disappointing. As the season was opening, Reed said he felt the Eagles had the wherewithal to be among the eight teams reaching the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference playoffs. However, they finished last in the standings.
The team was often competitive, but lost four games by three or fewer points and two more in overtime early in the season and never seemed to reach its potential. The Eagles were in contention in several other games, but were frequently outscored down the stretch.
The seniors on this year’s team--Brian Rodriguez-Flores, Michael Sparks and Colby Jackson--were three of the team’s four leading scorers. The current roster includes four players who will be seniors this coming season, three who will be juniors, four who will be sophomores and two who redshirted as freshmen this past year and have four years of eligibility remaining.
The coach, who was always cordial even when his team struggled, said after the season ended that some additions, particularly at the guards, would be needed to help improve the Eagles. Reed added that Jesse Barnes, a 6-foot-8 transfer from Canada who practiced with the team this past season while working on his eligibility, will be a force, particularly as a rebounder and defender.
The interior defense was a major problem for the Eagles in 2019-20, especially after forward Walker Andrew was injured and missed the final 10 games.
Jalen Little, who has been Reed’s assistant each of the past four years, is now temporarily in charge of the program.
The Reed family’s departure is a huge blow to the basketball programs at Chadron High School. The Reeds’ daughter, Olivia, was arguably the best girl player in the Panhandle this past season, when she shot 63.8 percent from the field, averaged 17.3 points and 7.2 rebounds and led the Lady Cardinals in steals with 92. Her younger brother, Johnnie, is a 6-foot-3 eighth grader with outstanding potential, according to those close to the middle school program.
Olivia also was a starter on the Chadron High volleyball team that went to state and she won the 200 meters, was second in the 400 and anchored the Cardinals’ winning 4x400 meter relay team at the Class B-6 District Track and Field Meet last spring. She also cleared 5-1 in the high jump.
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