Basketball coaches in Montana typically cross paths many times throughout their careers. They coach together, they coach against each other, and some even played against or with each other before turning to coaching.
Curt Leeds and Tom Reynolds are prime examples of two coaches that crossed unique paths.
Reynolds is the head
coach of the Shelby Coyotes boys basketball team and is nearing the end of his 15th season in Shelby. Leeds is the first-year head coach of the Havre High Blue Ponies. Not a lot in common at first glance, but at one time, Reynolds was the “teacher” and Leeds was the “student,” so to speak.
“I learned a lot from Tom,” Leeds said. “And my knowledge of the game grew big time being there. He is a great coach and he is just a great guy.”
While Reynolds has been in Shelby for 15 years, he is also a Havre High graduate, and former Blue Pony basketball player. Leeds is in the same boat, as he too was a Havre High graduate, and former Pony basketball player. But Leeds also spent the first four years of his coaching career as Reynolds’ assistant in Shelby, making last Saturday’s meeting in Havre between the two teams special.
On Saturday, the Ponies defeated the Coyotes 62-25. This was the second meeting between the old friends and former coworkers, as the Ponies also defeated the Coyotes 57-34 earlier in the year in Shelby.
“It was different, but it was fun coaching against Tom,” Leeds said. “I enjoyed facing Shelby and it was fun hosting them in my home court. But when the jump ball happens, both Tom and I are competitors, and we were both worried about getting our teams a win. I think that he would want that from me, and that is exactly what I wanted from him.”
Leeds now holds a 2-0 edge against his former mentor, but has a long way to go to catch Reynolds’ coaching success, as he has multiple Class B titles to his credit. And as both teams are fighting to rebuild programs with very young teams, hopefully there will be many more meetings to come. Though that may not be the case, as their may be changes to the schedules next season. Reynolds and Leeds may not run into each other again, unless one or both end up coaching different programs that cross paths.
But even if coach Reynolds has to be down 0-2 in the series for a while, he too was happy to be back in Havre, coaching against a fellow alumni and friend.
“There is a lot of pride in coming back,” Reynolds said. “And it is neat to see him progressing in a profession that is definitely not easy. I am proud of him, and he is doing a lot of good things.”
And Reynolds even saw Leeds call a few things that looked very familiar.
“There were a lot of similarities in our coaching,” Reynolds said. “We all steal stuff from each other in this profession, but he also threw in a lot of new wrinkles of his own. One thing I can tell you is that he has a passion for coaching, and he loves kids. Those two things together, it will come together for him that is for sure.
“You take a lot from where you have been,” Leeds added. “I run a lot of plays from Montana Tech, and I run a lot of coach Reynolds’ sets. We had a lot of success with those, and I see our team, not completely like the teams we had in Shelby, but similar. But he runs some of mine too, no coach creates plays anymore, we all watch basketball and take plays that we like, and discard those that we don’t.”