Perry Reese, Jr.
Birthdate: August 29, 1952
Birthplace: Canton, Ohio
High School: Canton Timken (1970)
Colleges: Muskingum University (1974)
Year Inducted: 2023
The unlikely and inspiring saga of high school coach Perry Reese Jr. lives on in state lore, especially in eastern Ohio, where he made an indelible mark in his two decades on the sideline.
An African American man of Catholic faith who graduated from Muskingum University and cut his coaching teeth at Guernsey Central Catholic in Guernsey County, Reese eventually arrived to the Amish sect of Holmes County in Berlin, Ohio, at the behest of Hall of Fame coach Charlie Huggins. It was 1983, and given the time frame and setting, Reese wasn’t well-received by some in the predominantly white and rural area.
However, he overcame inherent racism and proved his worth as a trusted Huggins assistant at Berlin Hiland before taking over the rebuilt program in time for the 1984-85 season. The Hawks went a combined 49-4 in their first two seasons with Reese in charge and advanced to the 1986 state semifinals. What followed was a 3-18 downturn that greatly tested Reese and his players. He overhauled Huggins’ slow-down system and built a trademark for the Hawks as they employed a trapping, up-tempo approach in its place.
The ensuing success included 11 conference titles, five trips to the state tournament and a memorable run to the 1992 title that culminated with a thrilling come-from-behind win over Lima Central Catholic in the semis and victory over Gates Mills Gilmour Academy in the Division IV championship game. In his 16 seasons as head coach, Reese compiled a record 304-85 and endeared himself to a once-skeptical community.
How noteworthy were Reese’s accomplishments? Consider that journalist Gary Smith once did a deep dive into his impact in a Sports Illustrated article titled, “High Education: How Perry Reese Jr. changed an Ohio community forever” and SI once deemed that piece as one of the best ever to grace its pages.
Perry Reese Jr enters the Hall posthumously; he died in 2000 at age 48.