Ray Reyes is back -- again -- with one final attempt to breathe life into a foundering high school football program.
"I can be accused of not making decisions with my brain, jumping into things with my heart first, and I've done it again," he said Thursday night after accepting the head coaching position at Fresno High.
Reyes, who will turn 64 next month, hasn't coached football since resigning following the 2004 season at Fresno for health reasons. He had undergone coronary bypass heart surgery in 2003.
But the man who has revived programs at Parlier, Edison and Fresno, says doctors have given him the green light: "That part of it is good or I wouldn't have been able to look at my wife, Linda, in the eye because she was concerned about it.
"I've had 10 years of really good (medical) reports and I'm active six days a week with exercise."
He says he's committed to the Warriors of the North Yosemite League for at least three years: "And we'll take it from there."
Reyes is 121-83-4 in 19 years overall with seven league titles, a section Division II championship at Edison in 2002 and three section runners-up finishes.
That included a D-III silver medal in 2004, when Fresno went 8-5.
That's the Warriors' only winning record in the past 36 seasons, according to section historian Bob Barnett.
"That won't matter when I meet with the (football players today)," Reyes says. "The only thing that will matter to those kids is how I do right now."
Reyes, while in retirement from the classroom, has actually been on campus at Fresno for three years, assisting school Athletic Director Dave Barton while also tutoring student-athletes.
Meanwhile, Warriors coach Rick Stewart was fired mid-season last fall and replaced with interim coach George Falgout, the team's defensive coordinator.
Barton says he tried to reel back Reyes two years ago, "but the timing wasn't right."
Then, two weeks ago, Barton says, Reyes offered to be an assistant coach if it would help the hiring of a head coach.
At that point, Barton launched a full-court press on Reyes to take over the program.
"Once he opened the door to coaching again, it was just a matter of gauging his interest in being the head coach," Barton says. "We had a very clear picture of the type of coach we wanted: someone with high integrity; someone who has the ability to get the athletes on our campus and from our region to participate in football; and someone who connects to our teachers and staff on our campus in a meaningful way.
"Obviously, Ray has all those qualities. He has positive energy, a love for his players and an incredible talent for keeping kids on the right path, which is just what we need right now. We are really blessed to have him here."
Fresno principal John Forbes adds: "He is kid-centered and a role model for students. His win-loss record is impressive, but pales in comparison to the number of students he has inspired to be excellent scholars, athletes and members of our community."
The hiring of Reyes is yet another uplifting development during the winter sports season at a school whose boys (21-3) and girls (14-8) basketball teams are a combined 35-11 overall and 8-2 in the NYL.
Reyes credits the "management blueprint" of Barton.
"I hate to use the word revolutionary," Reyes says, "but Dave's doing a remarkable job with his management practices, and that was a factor in my decision, too. A lot of great, positive things are happening here."
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