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Charismatic former Sapulpa coach Ray Reins dead at 82
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Charismatic former Sapulpa coach Ray Reins dead at 82

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Tournament time (copy)

Former longtime Sapulpa boys basketball coach Ray Reins (right) served as a part-time assistant when the Chieftains hosted the Ray Reins Festival in 2008. Reins died Saturday at the age of 82.

Ray Reins was remembered Tuesday as a charismatic character, a battler and an ambassador for the game of basketball.

Sapulpa’s head boys basketball coach for 24 years (1970-93), Reins died of natural causes Saturday. He was 82.

A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Ninde Brookside Funeral Home.

“He’ll be missed. I don’t know of anybody who promoted the game more than Ray Reins did,” said former assistant Tom Whillock, who succeeded Reins as head coach in 1993-94 and held the job for eight seasons.

“He loved the game, and he loved talking about it,” Whillock said. “If there was a game in town and his team wasn’t playing, he and (former wife) Kathy were gonna be there.”

Lanky and mustachioed, Reins had a high-pitched voice, an excitable nature and a fiercely competitive spirit. His sideline antics were legendary, and one story says it all.

One night, a referee told Reins to sit down in his seat and not come out of it again or there were going to be dire consequences. Moments later, there was Reins, bobbing and hobbling along the sideline, using both hands to hold the chair against his backside.

Bill Kusleika remembered that Sapulpa went to the Webster Invitational almost every year, and Reins wore a tuxedo every time the Chieftains made it to the championship game.

“And he wore that tuxedo many times,” said Kusleika, Reins’ best friend and a coaching rival at Bixby, Cascia Hall and Broken Arrow for a combined 17 years.

A 1957 Central High All-Stater, Reins played at Oklahoma State University for the legendary Henry Iba and later played AAU basketball with the Douglas Aircraft team.

He started his Sapulpa coaching career as an assistant to former head coach Dan Moore.

The Chieftains went 3-19 in his first season, but followed with 10 consecutive winning seasons. The 1973 team, led by Kenneth Dansby, Reggie Grant, Mike Parks and Mark Tucker, finished runner-up for the Class 3A state title and returned to the state tournament the following year.

According to the Tulsa World archives, Reins had two more state tournament teams and a 345-246 record over 24 seasons, making him the winningest and longest-serving Chieftains boys basketball coach in at least 70 years.

“He had a way of getting his boys ready to play,” Kusleika said. “Before a game, he’d say, ‘Well, fellas, (that night’s opponent) will say they have the best guards in the state. After the game, Mark Tucker (the 1974 All-State guard who patterned his game after the immortal Pistol Pete Maravich) would come up and say, ‘Who do you think has the best guards now, coach?’”

Reins’ outsized public persona was there for all to see. But he was also a private person, Whillock said.

“What most people never saw, was how much he cared for his players,” he said. “He did a lot of little things for them that had nothing to with basketball. He wanted them to be successful and be the best they could be.”

“He was very influential in my life,” said 6-foot-10 Ray Poindexter, a 1992 Chieftains All-Stater who went on to play basketball at the University of Tulsa.

With the coronavirus still in the air, Poindexter said he was surprised to see Reins at the girls All-State basketball games at Jenks High School in July.

“More than 80 years old and still going to games,” Poindexter said. “He must just have been a basketball guy.”

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