His picture stared back at me from the moment it arrived in my email inbox.
Just minutes earlier, I asked for a photo of Charles “Bud” Reich to go with the story about his death that I was going to write. Charter Oak High School football head coach Lou Farrar obliged, and there he was a click later, Coach Reich, smiling at me while I cried at him.
Reich was the person who Farrar had described minutes earlier during our interview as one of the greatest men he ever knew. That same phrase was used by others who I spoke to while gathering information
Another phrase kept coming up: old school. It was often followed by the word “tough.”
I summed Coach Reich up as both of those things in my mind when I first met him, somewhat on accident, following a Charter Oak basketball game during my first year on the prep sports beat.
“Coach Thatcher, may I have a few comments from you about the game?” I said to Reich, who responded “I’m not Coach Thatcher, but he’s right over there.”
According to the roster I had printed from the MaxPreps website, Charter Oak’s head coach was Randy Thatcher. And watching the game, that’s who I thought Reich was because he sure seemed the part of head coach.
Reich later explained to me that he was once the head coach and was now helping out his good friend Thatcher, who took a more calm approach during games.
Reich certainly looked and acted the part of someone in charge. God knew exactly what he was doing when he drafted up Reich, a coach if you ever saw one.
Heck, during Charter Oak’s football game against Los Alamitos in 2012, a cable television company broadcasting the game often showed Reich pacing the Charter Oak sideline as if he were the head coach.
It was a moment that I used to bring up often to Reich. We’d laugh about it. But those days are gone now. Reich’s long battle with cancer came to a close last weekend. The man who fought through sickness and pain so often just to make it to practice or a game, is now gone.
I don’t pretend to have known Reich as well as others. Far from it. He surely touched the lives of his former players and fellow coaches and his family way more than mine. And that’s as it should be.
For many people, myself included, Reich represented the old school. From his straight out of central casting looks to his coaching style to the way his teams played defense to his gentlemanly disposition, Reich was part of what’s fast becoming a bygone era. If you’re reading this, you probably had a coach like him, too, somewhere along the way.
Reich knew when to yell and when to console. He knew how to filter his own competitiveness into his players and reap the rewards. He knew the importance of wins and how to get them. He also knew how to handle losses and put them in context.
So why all the tears?
It took the better part of the week to figure that question out. Like anyone who we admired that has passed, there’s sadness. But this is about more than that. Reich smiles back at me in his picture because he knows he did it right. Not perfect. Not without mistakes. But right.
I cry because deep down I know Reich was a relic. I compare generations, mine versus his, and he smiles while I cry.
They don’t make ‘em like him anymore. That’s cliche but it’s also fair warning.