A white rose lay atop the chair at the end of the Southold bench. Port Jefferson coach Keith Buehler placed the flower there in honor of his dear friend and colleague Phil Reed, who died suddenly Jan. 26.
Reed, the beloved boys basketball coach at Southold for the past four years, was 59 years old. The rose, a symbol of friendship, respect and class, saluted Reed on Tuesday night as Southold played at Port Jefferson.
It was Southold’s first game since Reed’s passing. The pregame gesture and moment of silence were dedicated to Reed’s legacy, to the man who impacted the lives of young student-athletes for the past 30 years.
“It was never about just the wins and the losses for Coach Reed,” said an emotional Buehler, who has guided Port Jefferson for 13 years. “He was one of the finest people you’d ever meet. He was what was right with high school athletics. His passing is a terrible loss for everyone.”
Former Southold coach Jeff Ellis, who guided the Settlers for eight years with Reed as his assistant, volunteered to coach the final three games of the season.
“We were super tight,” Ellis said. “He had his biggest win of the season last week against Bridgehampton and had the team playing well. It’s been very hard on the players.”
So Southold played looking for its third straight win after a 1-6 start in league play. It wasn’t meant to be. Port Jefferson used a 13-2 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to erase a five-point deficit and go on to a 44-42 win and end Southold’s hopes of a postseason berth.
Both teams are 3-7 in Suffolk VIII.
“It’s been unbelievably tough,” Southold’s Noah Mina said. “We’ve stayed close as a team. We remember his laughter and no matter if we won or lost that he treated us the same. He was more interested in life lessons. He wanted us to grow as young men and make good decisions.”
Reed would have been proud of his Settlers. John McLaughlin hit two free throws to give the Royals a 41-33 lead with 44 seconds left, but the Settlers never quit. A driving layup by Gus Klavas narrowed the deficit to 43-39 and a long three-pointer from Pat McFarland cut it to 44-42 before time ran out.
“We played hard until the end,” senior Aidan Walker said. “Coach Reed would have been proud of the effort.”
Ray Kogler, who officiated the game, was a close friend of Phil Reed’s, and they refereed games together for 10 years for the Western Suffolk Basketball Officials Board 127.
“We lost one of the greatest teachers of young people,” Kogler said. “He was one of a kind.”