Unexpected Reunion: Reece Gaines Returns To Louisville As Bellarmine Assistant

One of Louisville’s most beloved basketball players has returned to the city in a role he never imagined he’d fill.

Reece Gaines, former NBA player and No. 4 on the all-time scoring list at the University of Louisville with 1,945 points, has been named the new assistant basketball coach of Bellarmine University, a program that’s steadily ascended to national prominence in Division II basketball over the last few years.

“I never thought I would coach, ever,” Gaines admitted. “Never thought about it, never wanted to be a coach. All the stress, and it’s tough being a coach, and you don’t want to be a cliche basketball player coming back being a coach.” Yet, after talking to his past collegiate coach, Rick Pitino, Gaines realized he’d like to give the position a try and called his former assistant coach at Louisville, Scott “Scotty” Davenport, the current head coach of Bellarmine’s men’s basketball team.

“I told (Pitino) I wanted to go back and get my degree and I wanted to help somebody out while I was getting my degree,” Gaines said. “And, (I) called Scotty and said, ‘I want to come around and help,’ and he offered me this job so I’m pretty lucky and fortunate to be here and have this opportunity because this is a great one; this is a great school.”

The day Bellarmine publicized the Gaines hire, NBA star of the Miami Heat and former Marquette player Dwyane Wade gave Gaines and Bellarmine a coincidental promotion when he mentioned on Twitter that Gaines was the best player he faced in college. A 6’ 4” shooting guard, Gaines achieved an impressive career at UofL, having been named to All America teams after his senior season. In 2003, he was selected 15th in the NBA draft by the Orlando Magic, but spent much of the next decade jumping from team to team, appearing on the Houston Rockets and Milwaukee Bucks before heading to the NBA D-League and Europe. Following his most recent stint, a 30-day contract in January of 2012 with the Fürstenfeld Panthers in Austria, Gaines decided to retire from basketball, thus prompting him to accept Bellarmine’s coaching job.

Though a native of Madison, Wisc., moving back to Louisville was an easy transition for him, his wife and two young children. “This feels like home, really,” Gaines said of his return to Louisville. “I’ve been traveling all around the world and haven’t really had a chance to call a place home, and this is, for the first time, I feel like I’m back home.”

At Bellarmine, Gaines will assist in all areas of the program as a member of the coaching staff, which includes assistants Drew Cooper and Michael Scott. Gaines replaced Bellarmine assistant Carl White, who took the head coaching job at Shawnee High School in August. Through the help of his colleagues, Gaines will learn to see the game from a new perspective compared to the player mindset he’s still accustomed to coming fresh off his playing career.

“I’m guessing once (the players) get into the game and I can’t go out there and help them do anything about their wins and losses, I think that’ll have an effect (on me),” Gaines said of adjusting his role from player to coach. “I have the vantage point of player, still, so I try to use that when I’m on the floor with the guys. I try to tell them what I see from a player’s point of view, and kind of that’s pretty much what my role is right now until I learn how to see the things Coach Davenport sees, the small things, in which, you know, when you’re a player you don’t see.”

From Coach Davenport’s point of view, Gaines will be an excellent addition to Bellarmine’s staff due to his personal pride and solid upbringing. “He comes from super parents,” Davenport said. “Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Gaines, I knew them in the recruiting process when I was at Louisville and we recruited Reece, and that will be the foundation that they built that will make Reece Gaines a great coach. It made him a great athlete, a great student athlete, it made him a great pro. And that will carry over into coaching.”

Not only has Davenport witnessed the maturation of Gaines from player to coach, but he’s also seen his own son Doug take on a new leadership role, transitioning from former Bellarmine player to a member of Pitino’s staff. On Nov. 7, Davenport will meet his son on the KFC Yum! Center court as the Bellarmine Knights face the Cards in an exhibition game featuring a night of unique reunions for both Davenport and Gaines.

“It’s definitely going to be exciting for me to see the new arena, to be sitting opposite Coach Pitino on the coaching side now and just to see the UofL fans again,” Gaines said of the match-up. “And, hopefully I’ll get a chance to thank (the fans) for all the support they gave me. But it’s going to be exciting and we’re definitely getting that win,” he grinned. “You can (write that down).”

Contact writer Ashley Anderson at aanderson@voice-tribune.com, 502.498.2051.

Photos By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune