Joel Reichenberger: Paonia’s pride is Hayden’s product

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Joel Reichenberger

Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Joel here.

— To someone new to Hayden High School, Paonia girls basketball coach Scott Rienks may appear to be nothing but the enemy, a tall man clad in Eagles’ red who’s strode across the opposing sideline for many a painful Hayden loss.

There are clues, though: a warm handshake with the Tigers’ coach or a wave to someone in the Hayden stands. A look in an old yearbook in the Hayden library would do, as well.

Rienks’ wildly successful high school girls teams might be the cause for annual frustration in Hayden, but he’s no enemy. In fact, he’s a hometown kid, born and raised in the town.

His father, Beryl, was a native of Mount Harris and a longtime employee in area coal mines, and his mother, Bessie Jo, was a staple at Steamboat Medical Group.

Since leaving town, first to play baseball at Western State College, Rienks has established himself as one of the premier preps coaches in the state.

At De Beque, his first stop, his teams made state 12 times in 14 years. Little changed upon moving to Paonia five years ago. The Eagles made state in three of his first four seasons and, as the No. 1-ranked Class 2A team by the Denver Post, are on track again.

They made the state championship game in 2009, beating Hayden in the state semifinals to do it, then won the school’s first basketball title a year later.

The key is a high-pressure, shot-happy style, a winning philosophy Rienks said he developed thanks in part to his time in Hayden.

The Tigers went to state three times in Rienks’ years, and he played on two of those teams. Although he stood just 6-foot-3-inches, he was the team’s starting center. That was all right, he said, because those teams didn’t rely on height but instead thrived on the same kind of high-intensity pace he now coaches.

He came back to Hayden as an assistant coach for a year before college, but after college, he settled in De Beque to teach physical education and coach.

The Eagles play the kind of basketball that leaves opponents fuming, their ever-present jerseys in every passing lane at the same time in a way impossible without 10 players on the court.

They slap, poke and claw at the ball no matter where it is, their feet usually just quick enough to keep their hands from racking up the obscene number of fouls rival fans and coaches call for.

Hayden fans and coaches often have been in that bunch — as Paonia coach, he’s yet to lose in his hometown — and while Rienks isn’t looking to relinquish his role as Tiger tormenter any time soon, Routt County fans should take pride from the fact that this architect of their on-court destruction, this great coach, is one of their own.

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