Reinhart comes full circle in call to Hall

By BRENDAN PERKINS
bperkins@dcherald.com


You want honesty? Bob Reinhart’s your guy.

Reinhart

Reinhart will tell you that defense is overrated, at least the way basketball coaches publicly trumpet the merits of “D.” He debunks the myth of “hidden gem” type of players in pro sports drafts. And all that noise about relaxation and concentration being two of the most valued traits when it comes to accurate free throw shooting? A bunch of baloney, Reinhart insists. (More on those later.)

So when he speaks about the weight of joining the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, well, the forthright Reinhart isn’t just spouting the company line. Tonight, the former Dale High School star joins other Hoosier State legends as Reinhart and 11 others are inducted to the Hall of Fame in a ceremony in Indianapolis. When the Hall called him a couple months back to deliver the word, Reinhart was speaking with a friend in Atlanta, where he was also inducted to the city’s Sports Hall of Fame last month. His friend told him it must be a dream come true to be appointed to Indiana’s Hall of Fame.

“I said, ‘No; nobody from Dale, Indiana, can dream that big,” Reinhart says. “It never crossed my mind. It’s a great honor. I was certainly humbled by it, because if you’re going to be in a hall of fame, the Indiana one is the one to be in (for) basketball.”

The point guard who ran the controls for Dale’s back-to-back sectional champion teams of 1956 and ’57, Reinhart turned his passion into a vocation as a revered high school coach in Georgia, a Division I college coach for a spell, and an NBA scout since 1993. He’s almost 80 and still working, as he’s been a scout with the Miami Heat for the last 11 years.

All along, passion has been his propulsion.

“I’m 78 years old, and I still get excited when I go in a gym and hear a basketball bounce,” Reinhart says. “I’ve always thought and I still believe it’s the greatest game in the world, and I’ve always been enthusiastic about it, and I think that’s one of the things that has helped me. I don’t think you can love something and not be enthusiastic about it. I’ve always enjoyed the game, I’ve been a student of the game, I’ve been a historian of the game.”

One entry in Reinhart’s mental hoops Rolodex is Bevo Francis’ 113-point game in 1954 for the University of Rio Grande. Reinhart then offers up an another memory in even more precise detail.

“I remember in 1953 when I was an eighth-grader, I was in my sister and brother-in-law’s house in Evansville and watching the 1953 Hoosiers play. Their starting lineup was Don Schlunt, Charlie Kraak, Burke Scott, Dick Farley and Slick Leonard,” he says, minus any pauses while hopping from name to name from that Indiana University team.

“How ’bout that? 1953,” Reinhart adds with a chuckle.

Seven years later, Reinhart was a Hoosier himself, transferring to play for IU’s basketball team after spending a quarter at Kentucky Wesleyan. In Bloomington, Reinhart also did what’s pretty much unheard of today: playing both basketball and baseball in college. Reinhart actually played a more high-profile capacity in baseball, where he started at third base for two years, hit first, second or third in the order and captained the 1961 team that still owns the best single-season winning percentage in program history. In basketball, “it was tough to crack the point guard position,” Reinhart recalls. But he garnered time coming off the bench and also relished all the moments to observe.

“I soaked up everything,” Reinhart says of his time playing for coaching legend Branch McCracken, who developed a routine of strolling by as his team did warmup exercises before practices and joking with Reinhart, “Reiny ... where is Dale, Indiana?”

“I always knew I wanted to be a coach, and I enjoyed playing for Branch McCracken and I enjoyed being around him, because Branch was not one of the premier X-and-O coaches, but he was a supreme motivator. I mean, he’d make you want to go through a brick wall without any protection. I just enjoyed being around him. He was just a positive guy ... and of course in my coaching philosophy, I think that’s No. 1, is to do whatever you have to do to get your kids to play hard.”

Reinhart apparently picked up on the tactics.

He coached Decatur High School to three Georgia state championships and two runner-up finishes. Within his 14-year stay there, Decatur won 83 percent of its games and rattled off a 57-game win streak from 1981 to ’83 that was the longest in state history at the time. Reinhart actually began as an assistant at Decatur under Roger Kaiser, his former high school teammate (and also an Indiana Hall of Famer) who played at Georgia Tech and called Reinhart one day to see if he’d be interested in moving to the Atlanta area to coach.
Reinhart kept going places.

To the Atlanta Hawks as an assistant coach under Mike Fratello; as far as Reinhart knows, he’s the first person to ever leap from the high school coaching ranks directly to an NBA bench.

To Georgia State University, where he inherited a team that was 2-26 the year before he arrived. Five years later in 1991, he took the Panthers to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their history.

To six NBA franchises as a scout. His current work with the Miami organization entails scouting players from the Southeastern and Atlantic Coast Conferences, and he’s got two championship rings with the Heat — though Reinhart points out he can’t take credit for LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, who were acquired through free agency.

Not that Reinhart would beat his chest, anyway, about netting a solid draft class even though during a stint working with Golden State he helped bring in the likes of Jason Richardson, Antawn Jamison and Monta Ellis.

“One time (another scout) said they had this guy under the radar that nobody knew about, and they drafted him in the seventh round. I said, ‘Why didn’t you draft him in the first round if you knew he was going to be good?’” Reinhart quips. “You miss some of them, but at the same time, the thing you’ve got to understand is if one scout knows about a player, everybody knows about it. There are no hidden gems out there. You might luck onto somebody that your opinion’s a little higher than somebody else and it works out a little better, but there are no secrets in scouting.”

And as for that stance of Reinhart’s about defense:

“I think that most coaches have the same philosophy I have, they just don’t express is publicly. Most college and pro coaches have adopted the philosophy that ‘defense wins championships.’ And that’s a bunch of hogwash,” says Reinhart, stressing that he still drilled his teams plenty on defensive tenets. “Defense will keep you in games. But offense wins championships. I coached at the D-I level nine years, and not one time did I ever offer a defensive scholarship.”

Offense, that’s more of Reinhart’s thing. He wrote the book on shooting — literally. His book “Free Throw Shooting: Psychological & Physiological Techniques” hits the fine points of technique and routine, which he says outweigh the “just concentrate” directive players are given at the foul stripe.

“Been printed three times,” Reinhart says about the book. “Matter of fact, Bobby Knight said it’s the best book he’s ever read on free throw shooting. I ought to print it a fourth time as bad as they’re shooting today,” he adds with a chuckle.

While Reinhart has crisscrossed the country in his career, he says his dream vacation is coming back to Dale for his family reunion (an every-August tradition), playing golf at Christmas Lake and hitting the horse track at Ellis Park. Today’s Hall of Fame induction brings him back in the neighborhood of where it all started.

“Greatest game in the world. I’ve been blessed. I’ve been truly blessed,” Reinhart says. “Never had a job I didn’t like. Matter of fact, my wife said I’ve never had a job in my life. I’ve enjoyed it all.”




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