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Vol. 57, No. 2 • January 2020 • .pdf version
Reynolds a Rhode Island institution
The call usually came at an ungodly early hour and always with the same question.
"Meet you at the usual place? Ten minutes?"
Ugh. It was time for breakfast in New York City with Bill Reynolds. Big East tournament time. The usual place? Howard Johnson's, just off Times Square.
For years that was the spot Reynolds and myself would dine while covering Big John, Boeheim, Calhoun and oh so many great players. HoJo's was typical Reynolds, laid back, no frills.
When it came time to write, however, Bill Reynolds was more like the 21 Club and Peter Luger's. A stylist, a wordsmith who could turn a phrase like a dream. Anyone who read Reynolds instantly noticed the talent dripping off the pages of the Providence Journal and out of the nearly dozen books he authored in a nearly 40year career in Rhode Island.
Reynolds lived a different journalistic life. He never really covered a team, didn't worry about recruiting or the coaching carousel. A few years after he was hired, he shot right into a columnist role and never left. He crisscrossed the country following the Larry Bird Celtics and saw the ball go through Buckner's legs in Shea Stadium but rarely missed a Providence, Brown or Rhode Island college basketball game.
While the games were great, Reynolds' best work came when focused on the human side of sports. "Losing locker rooms were better stories than winning locker rooms," Reynolds said.
Reynolds' reputation grew national in 1989 when he wrote "Born to Coach," a biography on the rise of Rick Pitino at Providence and with the New York Knicks. That platform took him to "Fall River Dreams," a season inside a local high school power. Other books included a season inside the Big East, a remembrance of the 1967 Red Sox and a book with Bob Cousy, Mr. Basketball himself.
As the years writing columns on Tom Brady, Pedro Martinez and his "For What It's Worth" Saturday roundup of one-liners and shots at politicians and society in general, Reynolds became a Rhode Island institution. Two of his most gripping books centered on local basketball. There was "Hope," a look at a dysfunctional Providence inner-city high school team. Then "Basketball Junkie," a remarkably frank, frightening look at Chris Herren's battle with addiction through his NBA and European pro career. It was so good, ESPN adapted it into an award-winning 30-for-30 film.
"He covered me in my teen years as I was growing up in basketball," Herren said, "but he was with me in my worst years."
Reynolds is joining an illustrious group of USBWA Hall of Famers, but he likely has everyone beat in one category. He could actually play the game, to the point that anyone who really knows the 6-foot-4 Bill calls him "Shooter." Reynolds was a star at Brown University in the 1960s, matching up against some of Pete Carril's earliest Princeton teams.
Look it up, right there in the Brown record books. William W. Reynolds. Hall of Famer.
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