Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.
– Muhammad Ali
It was their darkest moment. It led to their finest hour. It nearly ripped them apart. It was where their unbreakable bond was forged.
On Jan. 15, the Binghamton Bearcats sluggishly stumbled onto the court at tiny Pritchard Gymnasium and smack into a massacre. For 40 minutes, the host Seawolves beat the bag out of the visitors. When the dust settled and final buzzer mercifully sounded, the scoreboard read Stony Brook 67, Binghamton 47. The game wasn’t even as close as its lopsided final score.
Jordan Reed, a Binghamton’s star sophomore small forward and the program’s leading scorer, rebounder and epicenter for his entire young career, spent the final 31 minutes riding the pine, benched by head coach Tommy Dempsey for selfish play and lackluster effort.
When the Bearcats next took the floor five days later in Albany, Reed wasn’t on the court, the sidelines, or even within the same area code. He was sitting back in Binghamton, in his dorm room, alone, on his birthday, left behind by his team.
“It was a really rocky time in my life, it was my birthday, and we weren’t doing to well,” Reed reflected during a recent interview. “I was young and dumb as they say.”
Most outsiders assumed Reed’s relationship with his coach irrevocably damaged and that the sophomore would follow the path of least resistance and take the easy way out, like many young players, and transfer.
“I think a lot of kids now, when something doesn’t go their way, the first thing they do is run,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell during a recent interview on what has been dubbed an “epidemic” of transfers.
Eight months later, Reed still proudly sports the Bearcats’ jersey, is still the epicenter of the program and is now a Player of the Year candidate. His bond with his coach, which looked beyond repair, is now unbreakable. Both point to the “tough love” lessons imparted from coach to player for the “real” relationship they enjoy today.
“He’s a guy you look up to — I wouldn’t say a father because I have a father, but he is definitely a father figure,” said Reed.
“I’ve been very hard on him, but we have a really good relationship, contrary to what many would thing. It’s kind of like with your own son, you’re hard on them so they can be the best player they can be.
“I respect the heck out of the kid,” said Dempsey, palpable pride in his voice. “I think the fact that he stayed has shown me a lot, in this day and age, about his DNA, and his commitment to our program here.”
Both Reed and Dempsey point to a blunt and at times emotional closed-door meeting between the two, along with Reed’s parents, Curtis and Sonya, following the Stony Brook debacle and preceding his suspension for the Albany game, as the turning point in Reed’s career and his relationship with his coach.
“I brought him in and I told him and his parents if he decides he doesn’t want to be here, he’ll have 100 phone calls from people and he will have many, many options. I needed him to know that if he does want to be here, that these are my expectations from this point forward, and if he doesn’t want to be here, I’ll sign the paperwork tomorrow,” said Dempsey.
“It was at the point where we were either going to make up or break up, where things could have either gone left or right, and we made up. I could tell he really genuinely cared about me beyond being a player as far as he cared about me as a person and a man,” said Reed. (more…)