There are a number of reasons why Wayne Reese Sr. was called Coach.
He was called other things as well.
“We would call each other the ‘Godfather.’ He referred to me as the Godfather of the River Parishes – that you couldn’t do anything without checking with me. I said, but that’s nothing compared to being the Godfather of Orleans Parish. At the time, he was the senior coach in that area,” said former Lutcher football coach Tim Detillier.
Detillier, like many others in the high school coaching profession, fondly recalled Reese, a coaching icon in New Orleans, who passed away from complications from coronavirus last week at the age of 74.
“I called his son (Wayne Reese Jr) the other day and told him (Wayne Reese Sr.) was the ‘Mother Theresa of the coaching profession.’ Not only was he a great friend, he was someone you could confide in and we constantly stayed in touch. I knew I could depend on him. He will be severely missed as a guy that was a true ambassador for what a coach was supposed to be all about.”
Monica, a Hall of Fame coach, and Reese, both members of the 250-win club as high school football coaches, had a long association.
“Wayne and I go way back when he was at Carver High School and I was at Jesuit High School,” said Monica. “We scrimmaged one another. In one of those fall scrimmages, he had a running back named Marshall Faulk.
“When I was coaching at Jesuit, he would always come over and we exchanged film so that was the beginning of a friendship for a long, long time.”
When Monica formed the Louisiana Football Coaches Association, Reese was on the original board.
Brandon Walters, head coach at West St. John, knew Reese on a different level.
“I have had the pleasure of knowing him for a long time. His son (Wayne Reese Jr.) and I played college ball together at Grambling State,” said Walters. “We’ve been pretty close ever since, Coach Reese and myself.
“He (Reese Sr.) also coached my son (Jyron) as a quarterback from eighth grade until he graduated, and they have always been close.”
Reese Sr. managed to win 255 games, coaching at schools in which his teams had to play the majority of their games on the road. Part of that had to do with the lack of availability of stadiums for schools in the New Orleans area.
“He didn’t care about that. He just wanted competition,” Monica said. “Playing in front of crowds, it was all about the kids to him. To him, that was the most important thing. It was about quality competition. It wasn’t about Ws and Ls, which is unlike a lot of people today who just worry about the W, regardless of the competition or what the fan support may look like. He didn’t back away from any competition.”
“He played a lot of the road. He afforded those kids an opportunity to play against some of the better schools in the area and the state and it prepared them for the playoffs,” said Walters.
There were other reasons for all the road games – and even home games being playing on a Saturday – that spoke to Reese as a coach and a man.
“He played the majority of his games on Saturdays because everybody thought it was because he couldn’t get a field,” said Detillier. “Maybe sometimes that was true, but the real reason was he would feed them like at a Shoney’s or some place like there where they had a buffet. He knew for some of his players, that might have been the best meal they had all week. That was his No. 1 reason for playing on Saturdays.
“When he came to Lutcher, we played on Friday, but a lot of times we would feed them. That was part of the deal. He was more than just a coach. He worried about (his players) off the field as much as off the field. He was a disciplinarian, if you messed up, you were going to hear it on the sideline.”
Reese’s care for his players’ well-being, Monica said, went beyond just the fall football season.
“In the last 15 years, he’s been in our 7-on-7 league,” said Monica. “He was always there. When it was between games, we talked at length about coaching staffs, players.”
“He did everything for his players,” Monica continued. “He used to say, ‘I’ve got to get these kids staying busy in the afternoon.’ He would help them finds jobs and take them on 7-on-7s. He would treat them to dinner. He did it all for the kids. He did that several times.
“The kids had a lot of respect for him because they knew he would take care of them and had their best interests at heart.”
Reese has been described in a lot of different ways, perhaps Shining Knight of the coaching profession could be another.
“Wayne Reese always had a very fundamentally sound football team,” said Lou Valdin, the former head coach at Hahnville. “They didn’t get fancy. Old school but very good execution. I know several men who played for him and they were proud to say that he was their coach. That is a true measurement of a great coach. Not the wins, but the men he produced.”
“He was just a class act and a true professional. He always cared about the kids,” said Monica.
“He has changed a lot of lives. He’s afforded a lot of kids a lot of opportunities to do things beyond football and high school,” Walters said.
Walters had a chance to meet with Reese several weeks ago in what, in retrospect, turned out to be a poignant moment.
“They were awarding him at a semi-pro game in New Orleans East,” said Walters. “He was out there all alone, leading on the fence. I went up to him and joked, ‘I know you are not our here scouting.’ We laughed. A guy walked up and gave him a certificate honoring him for the season he just had and his career. I asked the guy about it and he said, ‘we want to give people the flowers while they are still here.’”