Phil Reed’s official title at Southold for seven years may have been the junior varsity coach, but for Jeff Ellis, Reed was always his top varsity assistant. Ellis, who coach the varsity for 14 years before Reed replaced him in 2012, said whatever success the team had during that time was in large part due to Reed.
“It was never just me,” Ellis said. “He was a big part of what we did. He was obviously great with the kids, a great coach and more importantly he was an even better person.”
The news on Wednesday that Reed died at age 59 a night earlier came as a “total shock” for Ellis. Knowing that three games still remained on the schedule for the First Settlers, Ellis quickly volunteered his service to lead the team over the final few weeks.
On Thursday afternoon, the school approved Ellis — a physical education teacher in the district — to once again coach the varsity team.
“I know Jeff and he always does what’s right for the kids here,” said Southold athletic director Michael Brostowski.
Ellis met with the players Thursday afternoon for a meeting and the team held a practice after taking yesterday off to absorb the news of Reed’s passing.
“It’s going to be hard for me, it’s going to be hard for them,” Ellis said, adding that the motto is “let’s do it together.”
The First Settlers’ next game is scheduled for Tuesday at Port Jefferson. That game will take place as scheduled, Brostowski said.
“They’re coming together to try to finish the season for coach Reed,” he said.
The First Settlers will enter the game having won their last two, including a stellar effort to defeat defending Class D state champion Bridgehampton on Monday night. It was the final game Reed coached.
Ellis said he hasn’t had the chance to see many of Southold’s games in recent years, but happened to attend that game because the regular shot clock operator couldn’t make it.
“You could see that it was a great win for the team and you could see how happy [Reed] was,” Ellis said.
That win kept the First Settlers’ playoff hopes alive and they can clinch an automatic spot in the postseason with wins in their next three games. Southold will host its senior night game on Feb. 5 against Shelter Island and then travel to Greenport on Feb. 8 to finish the regular season.
“It’s not just basketball any more,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot to it.”
Funeral arrangements have been set for Reed. Visitation will be held Saturday at Michael J. Grant Funeral Home in Brentwood. The hours are 1 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Ellis said the first 30 minutes are requested for only family members. The address is 571 Suffolk Ave., Brentwood, N.Y. 11717.
Reed leaves behind his wife, Lorraine, and daughter, Jessica.
Photo Caption: Jeff Ellis, left, will coach the Southold boys varsity basketball team for the remainder of the season after Phil Reed, right, died Tuesday night. (Credit: Garret Meade)