Former W-M coach dies in New Orleans
Wayne Reese led a successful stint as Washington-Marion’s head football coach, but is remembered by those close to him for his dedication to kids and ability to develop young coaches.
WWL-TV reported Reese died at age 74 in his native New Orleans from the coronavirus. He was the head coach at McDonogh #35 High School, which he led to the Class 3A semifinals last season, where the Roneagles lost to Jennings. Reese earned his 250th career win this past season.
During his 49-year coaching career he served as head coach at Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver and McDonogh #35 in New Orleans, around his stint at Washington-Marion from 1997-2001. He went 38-9 at W-M but is remembered more for his influence on his players and coaches.
W-M Principal Ronnie Harvey played center during Reese’s tenure at the school and maintained a close relationship with Reese throughout his life.
“We had a great relationship,” Harvey said. “I was just together with him and his son Wayne Jr. (head coach at BTW-New Orleans) at the state convention,” Harvey said. “He was a true father figure, someone who is responsible for everything I have achieved in sports, as a husband and as a principal.
“I was in coaching for a while and wanted to be a head coach. When it looked like that wasn’t going to happen, I called him and he told me maybe I was meant for something more. He told me that I loved Washington-Marion and asked if I ever thought of becoming the principal there. When I became principal (in 2018) he was the most excited person about it.”
Harvey said Reese would do whatever was necessary to help get kids into college.
“I played with (former NFL player Nate Livings), and we were having trouble with the ACT, so Reese picked us up in his old white van and took us to New Orleans for a week to get tutoring,” Harvey said.
“I played Division I football (at Louisiana-Lafayette), but it wasn’t because of my athleticism, it was because of Reese’s ability to sell athletes. He had every school believing I was 6-foot-2 when I’m 5-11.”
Harvey and Livings weren’t the only players to get a ride on what players called “the Reese bus.”
“Tulane was having a junior day and there were major thunderstorms all the way between Lake Charles and New Orleans,” recalled Jeff Ceasar, a former W-M assistant coach under Reese and currently defensive coordinator at Texas Southern University.
“Sure enough, coach pulled up in the van, blew the horn and said, ‘Let’s go, coach.’ We proceeded to pick up three kids. It seriously stormed all the way to New Orleans and back. I asked him why we went because he had to turnaround and go back to New Orleans after he brought us back. He said ‘It’s about the kids, Jeff.'”
Reese was Ceasar’s first and most influential mentor.
“He gave me the blueprint to the coaching world,” Ceasar said. “The most pertinent statement being, ‘Remember Jeff, the key to getting kids into colleges and universities is to give them as much exposure as possible.’ That recipe turned out to be very successful over my 23-year coaching career. You couldn’t ask for a better coach to work for because he allowed you to coach your players and taught you how to grow as a coach.
‘With New Orleans being a part of my recruiting area for Texas Southern University, I had the opportunity to spend some time with him at McDonogh #35 and tell him thank you for the blueprint. We laughed and talked about how that recipe still works.
“He was definitely legendary at his craft and will surely be missed.”
Hamilton Christian head coach Jules Sullen worked under Reese at W-M. He said Reese preached simple but valuable ideas.
“Every job I have embarked on, Coach Reese was there to help me make the decision,” Sullen said. “Off the field I have tried my best to preach and instill the same values in my players and family. Hard work beats talent. Every day is a day to outwork your opponent. You have to be stern, but you must provide love. There are no excuses. You are somebody.
“Lastly, he made me learn both sides of the ball. Great coaches know every aspect of the game. I’m so blessed to have had him as my mentor.”