BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Coaching kids up
Pointing to a newspaper clipping from the late 1980s, Lee County High School Athletic Director Reggie Peace can recall each of his players from his first varsity team.
"That young man right there," Peace said pointing to a newspaper photo of his Southeast Guilford High School team. "He lives in Canada and he's coaching. He's been keeping up with what we've been doing here, and he came to our Christmas (basketball) tournament a couple of years ago."
Pressing his finger against another laminated face, Peace said he kicked this player off the team only to see him again a few years later.
"He said, 'Coach, you were the only person who would discipline me,'" Peace said. "'Kicking me off the team was the best thing that has ever happened to me. I didn't realize it then but I realize it now.'"
At the time, Peace was one of two black head coaches in Guilford County School's basketball and football programs, and he said he wanted to do well as a head coach to change those numbers.
This is Peace's first year as athletic director, after long-time director Steve Womack retired, and Peace is the varsity boys' basketball head coach. Peace said he can't take credit for his players' successes, but hope his focus on faith, family, academics and ball has made a lasting impact.
"We have always tried to help young people, regardless of their nationality," Peace said. "For them to be the very best that they can be. I see a whole lot in young people that they might not see in themselves. So I push them to be what I know they can be. ... What I think is so great about (athletics) is it doesn't care about what color you are. How much money you have, what side of the tracks you come from."
Steve Hankins helped Peace secure his first coaching job in Guilford County, and the two have remained friends over the decades.
"Reggie Peace is one of the top coaches in the state of North Carolina," Hankins said. "... The thing is that he is not only a great coach. But the bigger thing is he's a better person and family man, and I have never seen anyone care for his players the way he does."
There's discipline involved, Hankins said. but he goes out of his way to help his players.
"He takes kids into his home when they are having problems," he said. "He not only becomes a mentor, but a parent to these kids he coaches."
Peace has been to the state championship basketball game as a head coach twice, once with Lee County High School in 2004, but lost both times.
"The games were so much alike, it was eerie standing on the sidelines," Peace said. "We led by 10 points going into the half, if I remember correctly, and in both games I had key players run into foul trouble in the second half. It wasn't easy. I remember telling the radio people after the (2004) game about how bad I felt letting Lee County down."
Despite the disappointment, Peace said he hoped his boys were able to learn from the experience and appreciate the opportunity.
"I think some of those lessons they learned from being on the teams, over the years, they have carried into their lives off the court," Peace said.