Arkansas prep basketball coaches react to Clay Reeves’ retirement

The official start of summer is a little less than a month away, but the news of legendary basketball coach Clay Reeves retiring was a scorching hot topic on Thursday evening.

Reeves had pondered the possibility of stepping away from the game due to health concerns, which he ultimately confirmed to Natural State Sports was the reasoning behind the move. The northeast Arkansas native won 814 games in his career, including 11 state championships, in 36 seasons.

Here is what some of Reeves’ coaching peers had to say regarding his impact both on and off of the court.

Jodi Christenberry – Jonesboro

Jonesboro Coach Jodi Christenberry. (Photo by Thomas Metthe/Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Jody Christenberry’s Lady Hurricane defeated Reeves’ Lady Bulldogs in the 2018 5A state final, then again in the 2021 quarterfinal, before Greenwood got redemption over Jonesboro in 2022 to claim the first of three consecutive state titles.

“Coach Reeves has been such a huge part of Arkansas Girls Basketball. I have heard people talk about how he is a Hall of Famer and there is absolutely no doubt. He is one of the biggest names in girls basketball that has ever been. He does it the right way – he is intense and he pushes his girls, but you can tell that they would run through a brick wall for him.

“To me, that is the most telling part of coaching is when they have players who will play hard for you. That has always been his thing. No matter if he had a team full of 5-foot-4 girls, or a big kid inside, they were always going to go hard.”

– Jodi Christenberry

Ashley Hutchcraft – Conway

Conway Coach Ashley Hutchcraft.
(Photo by Jaison Sterling/ Rock Town Media)

“Coach Reeves is not only a great coach, he is a great person. I’ve always been able to call him and talk basketball, he’s been there for me as a friend and a mentor. Coaching against him has made me a better coach and I am forever grateful for him and our friendship.”

– Ashley Hutchcraft

Paul Dean – Nashville

Nashville Coach Paul Dean and his mentor, Reeves. (Photo submitted)

“Coach Reeves is like a brother to me, a great mentor. He taught me how to do it and he is just the best in every aspect of coaching. I would not be where I am at without him. All of the success that Nashville has had he is a a part of because I try to do everything that I leaned from him – by the book, every detail.”

Dean continued on Reeves’ contributions to basketball.

“He has evened the game and everyone knows Clay Reeves in the state of Arkansas whether you watch girls basketball or not. He is an even better person. His morals and ethical values are top-notch. Just a high-character guy who treats people the way you would want to be treated. I can not say enough about him, to be honest with you.”

– Paul Dean

Daryl Fimple – North Little Rock

North Little Rock Coach Daryl Fimple. (Photo by Jason Sterling/Rock Town Media)

“When I first started out Clay was at Greenland and you got to see an amazing teacher of the game and those kids took on his persona. I think the amazing thing also was when he went to Greenwood, he changed several times to different philosophies to adapt to the kids he was coaching.

“Clay could adapt during the game probably better than any coach I have ever seen. During the game his adjustments were like playing chess. Sometimes you really get in the heat of the battle when two great teams are playing each other and he was always a gracious loser as well as winner. He always called and checked on you and was reassuring to younger coaches. He would be the last one to tell you about himself and he always made you feel like he was there to support you, even though he wanted to beat you.”

– Daryl Fimple

Jeremy Simon – Vilonia

Vilonia Coach Jeremy Simon. Reeves and Simon faced off in the past two 5A state championships. (Photo by Jack Allen/KATV News)

“I did not get to know Coach Reeves until these last four years, but I can say he is one of the best coaches I have seen. He always did an amazing job with scouting, game planning and managing the game. Although his teams were incredibly tough to play, I always enjoyed our battles. I am very thankful for everything he has done for girls basketball and wish him the best moving forward.”

– Jeremy Simon

Dell Leonard – Mountain Home

Mountain Home Coach Dell Leonard. (Photo submitted)

“When I think of Clay Reeves, obviously I think about how much of a Legend he is and, more importantly, what a great friend he has been to me. I believe he changed the game of basketball for the better in Arkansas. He has always seemed to be one step ahead of everyone else.

“His style of play forced everyone else to get better, or get blown out. I will always remember him as someone who grew the game and was a mentor in so many ways to all coaches.”

– Dell Leonard

(Cover photo of Vilonia’s Jeremy Simon and Clay Reeves by Kyle Sutherland)