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REID TELLS HIS FEELINGS ABOUT FIRING

SHARE REID TELLS HIS FEELINGS ABOUT FIRING

Just a few hours before he was fired, Roger Reid gave Christmas presents to Athletic Director Rondo Fehlberg. They wished each other Happy Holidays, and then Reid returned to his office.

At noon, Reid received the first of many phone calls regarding a newspaper report that his firing was imminent. Reid called Fehlberg, who said it was nothing but a rumor. "I've called the newspaper to let them know it's not true," he said.Later that afternoon, Reid was studying films when he received a call from Fehlberg, asking to meet him in President Merrill Bateman's office to help them do some "damage control" regarding the persistent reports of his firing. At the appointed time, Reid reported to the president's office, then sat in the lobby for a half-hour waiting for Bateman, Fehlberg and Vice President R.J. Snow to finish their own meeting. Finally, they asked him to step into the office. Bateman came right to the point: "We're going to make a change."

Just like that, after 18 years, after the most traumatic of days, the winningest coach in the history of BYU was fired on Tuesday afternoon. A couple of hours later, a press conference was held to announce the matter publicly.

Ever since then, Reid has been in mourning. Returning a phone call, Reid apologized profusely for not doing so earlier in the week, explaining, "I've been up for a couple of nights. Oh, man, Doug, I feel like I've been shot. The pain in my stomach won't go away. My whole life has been involved in doing one thing. And I'm not some guy who came from somewhere else. This is where I live. I've been coaching here for 26 years (at the prep and college levels)."

Reid has received an outpouring of sympathy. Neighbors bring food. Flowers arrive at his house. The mailbox is overflowing withmail. Calls have come by the hun-dreds from around the country.

"I feel like I died," he says with a chuckle.

Reid has been in a stupor. He has taken a couple of long drives with his brother to clear his head, but mostly, he says, "I just walk from one room to another. The only thing I can compare it to is when my father passed away and my son passed away. It's pretty close to that."

Reid eventually called his son Robbie, who's serving a church mission in Greece, to tell him the news before he heard it from someone else. Robbie, the Cougars' feisty, hard-nosed point guard, cried. "You mean tell me, they're doing this to you after all you've done for them," he said.

Predictably, Reid feels wounded and ill-used in the wake of his firing, and even the most calloused observer would understand why. His record has been well-established: Seven years, seven winning seasons, six 20-win seasons, six post-season tournament berths, three conference championships, a 152-77 record, a .668 winning percentage.

This is the record of a coach you fire seven games into a season, one week before Christmas?

Reid's current team, hampered by injuries and mission calls and one big arrest, is 1-6, but Fehlberg made it clear that that was not the reason for his dismissal. In the press conference, Fehlberg assured everyone that Reid would've turned the Cougars around and that they would start to win some games later this year.

The official reason for his firing was lack of fan support, which has been declining for years.

As much as anything, what has bewildered Reid is the timing. Didn't he deserve better?

"Firing someone is never going to be easy," says Reid. "But let him go out with dignity. If you have to do it, tell him you'll let him go at the end of the year so he can find another job. Don't cut a guy's head off."

On the other hand, Reid believes that BYU had to get rid of him now, while he was down. If he had started winning games with this young team toward the end of the season, as Fehlberg said he believed he would, then it would have made it more difficult to fire him. And Reid believes, winning record or not, his firing was ordained long ago. The first time he met Fehlberg after he was named athletic director last year, he told Reid, "Your job's on the line."

At the time, Reid had just produced six consecutive 20-win seasons.

"Now they'll bring in a new guy, and he'll have the administration's full support, which I never had," says Reid. "It's their man. They'll give him everything. And the cupboard will be full. We've had two top-20 recruiting classes. These are good young players. I don't want to put the pressure on the next guy, but I'd like to be coming into BYU now."

Reid, who was never given anything more than a one-year contract, regrets that he never had the administration's support. "I went to five NCAA tournaments," he says. "I've seen guys who go to two get eight-year contracts. Who gets protected? The school. I had to deal with that every year. Everytime someone says something, it would have been nice if the school had made some sort of statement like, He's our coach. It was like walking on pins and needles every year.

"It isn't fair. If I had had two or three losing seasons, if I don't have a solid program, if I don't have guys on missions, if I don't have great recruiting classes, then I should get fired."

As for fading fan support, Reid believes this is the result of a lengthy trend (see Weber State and Utah State) and competition with the Utah Jazz. He recalled when he replaced Ladell Andersen as head coach eight years ago that newspaper stories said he would have to deal with a decline in attendance. Glen Tuckett, who was athletic director at the time, told Reid, "The Jazz are here, and during the next 10 years they will sell it."

All that aside, the Cougars continue to sell 18,000 tickets or so per game, but only about one-third of them actually show up in the stands.

"The tickets are sold, the money's there," says Reid. "But if that was something I needed to do, if I'm supposed to sell tickets as the coach, I wish somebody would have come and told me."

BYU has offered Reid a position with the university, but he is uncertain what he will do in the future. Most coaches with his record would be set for life, or close to it, but not Reid. "This shocked me so much," he says. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't have a clue. I have a family I've got to support. I've got to make a living."

Meanwhile, he is trying to adjust to a life without a BYU basketball team. "I keep thinking it's a bad dream," he says. "Wait a minute, I'm not the coach for BYU? I keep thinking, This isn't right. This isn't happening. I keep thinking something will change."