They are a docile bunch, as college basketball crowds go, sitting quietly in the red V-neck sweaters and cardigans that the booster club strongly suggests they wear. But it doesn't mean Fresno State fans don't have feelings, don't get upset. In fact, as their Bulldogs were being outplayed by a team of inferior athletes back in January, the fans were frustrated and showing it. Brigham Young, their opponent that night, was winning the only way the Cougars can: scoring off set plays, helping each other on defense, keeping their poise even as the taunts from the bleachers took on a nasty edge.
"Hey, Reid, how many mothers you got?" shouted one slovenly, heavyset man three rows up as the Cougars' 6'1" sophomore point guard, Robbie Reid, broke the Bulldog press in the game's final minute. The outcome was decided—the Cougars won 69-61—but time remained for guys like this slob to get their licks in at the BYU guard, who is a Mormon. Had Reid been offended by the tired polygamy joke? "Actually," said Reid after the game, "I was kind of disappointed by the lack of creativity tonight."
"That was tame, compared to what we get at Utah," chimed in Robbie's brother Randy, the team's 6'2" junior shooting guard.
These two, who look as if they should be singing for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, would catch major flak even if they were the only members of their family on the Cougar roster. Which they are not. Their father, Roger, is in his sixth season as the team's coach, which makes for a robust stew of sibling rivalry and filial rebellion. It's also an NCAA rarity. While plenty of Division I coaches, from Press Maravich to Bob Knight, have had a son play for them, it is exceedingly uncommon for a coach to start two sons.
February 20, 1995
The gist of the insult they most frequently hear is, Hey, Goldilocks, I'd be starting too if my old man ran the program. The truth is, if they weren't playing for their father, the Reid boys would be playing for some better-known coach. Randy, whose 2,191 points in four seasons at Spanish Fork High made him Utah's alltime leading prep scorer, was recruited by North Carolina and UCLA. Robbie was wooed by Arizona and Florida, among others, after averaging 29.0 points per game as a senior at Spanish Fork. He finished his high school career as the fourth-leading scorer in the state.
This season, with an all-Reid backcourt, the Cougars were 20-5 as of Sunday, with wins over Louisville, Mississippi State, Oklahoma State and archrival Utah, where they are known as Daddy's Boys. Bad news for Cougarhaters: Daddy's Boys can play.
Of course, you can't blame opponents for being irked by the Reids. There is something inherently annoying about these virtuous, square-jawed sibs with the Bart Connor 'dos and Donny Osmond smiles. So it might please Cougar foes to know that the Reids have as much in common with the Bundys as they do with the Bradys; that the two brothers, who are often at war with their father, are so competitive they can't even scrimmage against one another without coming to blows.
Whereas 24-year-old Randy is a finesse player and pure shooter, Robbie, 20, is a hothead with a maverick spirit that tends to grate on the old man. At the shootaround before the Fresno State game, for instance, Robbie, the team's self-appointed shop steward, questioned the necessity of the endless walk-throughs to which Roger was subjecting them. Roger responded by humiliating his son in front of the team, prompting Randy to leap to the defense of his brother, which led the exasperated coach to turn to his assistants, arms raised, as if to say, Look what I'm burdened with.
No one was surprised to see Randy defend his little brother, with whom he has always gotten along famously, save for rare instances, like when they were small boys and Randy would hold Robbie's head under water until just before Robbie blacked out, or instruct his eager-to-please sibling to make a diving catch, then throw a football into a rosebush. But as the boys reached adolescence these conflicts petered out for the most part—except when the two brothers played against each other. At one practice last season they got into a nasty fistfight that is now part of team lore.
"We're best friends, there's nothing we wouldn't do for one another," says Randy. "We just can't play against each other. We're too competitive."
Randy was salutatorian of his class, Robbie the valedictorian of his. Randy was averaging 9.2 points per game at week's end; Robbie 10.6. Randy has a 3.48 grade point average in premed/business; Robbie a 3.70 in an undeclared major. Randy is partial to brief homilies; Robbie to one-liners.
While striving all his life to match the accomplishments of his older brother, Robbie has also devoted himself to being as different from Randy as possible. Check out their ensembles on a recent team flight: Randy in a navy blazer, striped shirt, paisley tie; Robbie sporting grungy stubble on his chin and mocking his father's dress code in a white T-shirt and blue suede vest to match his blue-tinted sunglasses.
On a team so clean it practically squeaks, Randy sticks out as Mr. Wholesome. He's apt to exclaim, "Heavens, yes!" when he's in wholehearted agreement with some statement. On the flight from Fresno he settles in to do some serious pleasure reading, burying his nose in William Bennett's The Book of Virtues.
This guy needs a book on virtue the way Brad Pitt needs a manual on how to pick up women. During high school Randy would rise at 5:15 in the morning, walk to the gym and shoot foul shots—sometimes while the drill team practiced around him. His record: 255 in a row.
After redshirting his freshman year, Randy decided it was time for him to go on a mission. The Church Missionary Committee decided he would do the most good in New Jersey. It wasn't Kenya or Australia, but Randy found his apartment in Elizabeth plenty exotic. "Every morning I'd scoop cockroaches out of the shower," he says. One day he and his fellow missionaries came upon a pickup basketball game in a park in Newark. They asked to play winners. Recalls Randy, "There we were in our white shirts and ties, with our name tags. They looked at us like we were out of our minds." But the Mormons held their own. "After a while they got used to seeing us there. They'd say, 'Here come the Celtics!' "
To his pickup opponents Randy laid down a challenge: If his team won, the defeated team would have to listen to the missionaries' sales pitch. "We won some, we lost some," says Randy. "We handed out a lot of copies of the Book of Mormon."
Randy is married to a former BYU cheerleader named Erin Berrett, whom he met on a blind date and married a year and a half later. Robbie is single and lives at home with his parents, his brother Darren and sister, Kelli. "I usually don't get home till about 10:30 at night," says Robbie, "and then I just go to my room." Around the house Robbie and Roger don't have much to say to one another.
Randy offers this: "The line separating when he's a coach and when he's a dad has always been cloudy."
Says Robbie, "He's always the coach."
Occasionally Roger must also be the peacemaker, like the time the two boys went at it during practice at UTEP's Special Events Center last January. Teammates had noticed that Robbie was in exceptionally foul spirits from a loss the night before to New Mexico. Robbie twice picked his brother's pocket and went in for easy layups. The next time up the court, Randy threw an elbow, and the battle was joined. Center Russell Larson, using a fireman's carry, finally had to transport Robbie out of the gym. Says one eyewitness, "If we hadn't pulled Robbie off, he would have killed Randy." Many saw that scrape as Robbie's way of taking over the team.
"Randy's always been the politician," says Diane Reid, the boys' mother. "Robbie's always been a fighter."
In ninth grade he was ejected from a game against Springville High when he slugged a boy who had flagrantly fouled him on a layup. After serving a one-game suspension, he suited up for a game against Dixie High, but he got into another ruckus that night when some fans yelled, "Hey, Reid, your father's a cripple." It was a particularly low blow because Roger limps badly from dual hip replacement surgery. Robbie flipped off the entire gym, challenging anyone and everyone to fight. He was lucky to only get a technical; one more suspension and he would have had to sit out the season.
Furious, Roger lectured his intemperate son. If you're a Reid and you want to play basketball in this state, you'd better have a thick skin, he said. Robbie listened for a minute, then got right up in his father's face. "I don't care if I can't play anymore," he shouted, "no one's going to talk that way about my father."
Roger's eyes teared up, and he walked away.
Randy played the point as a freshman, selflessly sacrificing his offense to get the ball to his teammates. Now Robbie runs the offense and runs it well. Unlike Randy, however, if he sees a shot he thinks he can make, it's bombs away.
He made that clear last year, in his first game against the despised Utes. BYU's rivalry with Utah transcends sports. It has overtones of private versus public and conservative versus liberal. No group was more delighted by Robbie's decision to play for his father than the Utah fans, who had derived much pleasure from baiting the Reids when only two of them came calling, bringing signs to the game that Said, HEY DAD, CAN I PLAY TOO?
With 15 seconds left in Robbie's first game against Utah, the Cougars trailed 62-61 but had the ball. Roger drew up a play. Says Randy, "Robbie was supposed to look for Larson on the low post or me coming off a pick." He chose none of the above. With 15,713 hostiles looking on in amazement, Robbie worked the clock down to :05, pulled up and nailed a three.
Wins over Utah are ambrosia to Roger, who is fond of saying, "Sometimes, a man can't get honor in his own country." What he means, but is way too diplomatic to ever say, is, Look, I've averaged 23 wins a year for the last five seasons. Until last spring, when we were royally jobbed by the selection committee, we'd been to four straight NCAA tournaments. And despite all this, that guy up the road, Utah coach Rick Majerus—whom I've beaten in eight of our last 10 games—has a much higher national profile and is making three times what I make.
For one who has tasted so much success, Roger is surprisingly full of laments. He regrets the harshness with which he treats his sons, wonders if they wouldn't become better players elsewhere. Despite "living a dream" as coach of the Cougars—Roger grew up eight miles from campus—he second-guesses an early career decision. Although he made it as far as Triple A as a shortstop in the Atlanta Braves organization, he never did make it to the Show. He gave up the chase in 1971 to take a job coaching high school basketball and baseball in Payson, Utah, a decision that haunts him to this day. Says his brother Marvin, a school principal in Salt Lake City, "He'll always wonder, What if?"
After a four-mile run with Marvin five years ago, Roger complained of soreness in his legs. Within a year osteoarthritis had forced him to have the double hip replacement surgery. Soon he will need similar surgery on his ankles.
Though Roger now has less pain than before the surgery, "Every step hurts," he says. He stands for the duration of games, ambulating back and forth in a kind of penguin waddle that Burgess Meredith would have envied.
Marvin and others who saw Roger play say Robbie reminds them of his father. Now all the two have in common is their hardheadedness and a knowledge of one another's weaknesses. As Robbie says, "We both know exactly what to say to tick each other off."
For all of that, they are butting heads less this season than last. After reducing Robbie to tears earlier in the afternoon, Roger announced to the team after the Fresno State game, "I want Rob to know that I love him. I love you, Robbie."
Harmony temporarily restored, Roger leaned back on the sofa in his office the next day and vowed, not for the first time, to go easier on his sons.
"Everybody else in the world is waiting for them to fail," said the coach. "Geez, if they don't have a friend in me, who's going to be their friend?"