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Coach Reeves retires from Hobbs Eagle basketball

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Coach Reeves retires from Hobbs Eagle basketball

JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN

The Hobbs basketball arena might be named for former head coach Ralph Tasker, but Shelby Reeves is a name no basketball fans from Hobbs will soon forget. After more than 50 years in Hobbs, Reeves will be leaving town Monday, ready to start the next chapter of his life.

“I am sad that I am leaving. This is my life,” Reeves said. “People don’t understand, this is my life. I followed Coach (Ralph) Tasker’s footsteps. This was his life, this was my life. But, at the same time to give it up and to leave and to know that Ronald Ross and coach (Jeremy) Soria is over in the athletic director’s spot and just the love that the people have for this game and with streaming and Internet, I can still watch games. I am sad to be leaving, but I am happy to be starting a new chapter with my wife and my baby.”

When the 2023-24 school year came to an end in May, it was also the end of Reeves’ long and storied tenure with Hobbs High School. From the age of six to now, the now retired Eagles basketball coach spent the last 50 years of his life inside Tasker Arena.

“I have been in this gym since I was probably six years old,” Reeves said. “I had to come with my brother, because my mom said if you want to go to the high school, you have to take your little brother with you,” Reeves said. “I had to come up here with my brother. He didn’t want me to come because he walked real fast and we had to cross that highway (Marland Boulevard), but I would run and run past him and here he comes walking again.”

From watching his brothers play basketball to playing basketball himself to coaching the Hobbs Mascots to coaching both boys and girls basketball to forming a student association with the goal of stopping bullying to running the Hobbs summer program out of Tasker, Reeves has left his mark on the community of Hobbs.

As a child, he spent almost all of his free time in the Tasker Arena gym. He tagged along with his older brothers, making sure to keep up and not get run down while sprinting across Marland Boulevard. He would play inside Tasker while watching his older brothers play basketball.

In high school, Reeves honed his craft on the junior varsity team, which he says helped make him a better player. Finally, as a junior (1982-83) and a senior (1983-84), Shelby played on the varsity team.

“We just had too many talented people,” Reeves said of his time playing junior varsity. “When so many people come and talk about the great Hobbs Eagles, there were so many great ones. We had a few guys who played on the varsity. I got to practice with them until the football players came out.

“I think that was the greatest thing to ever happen,” Reeve said of being sent to the JV squad. “That taught me how to score, how to play, how to dominate. The following year I went from playing on JV to starting on varsity. That is what that taught me.”

Just before Reeves joined the varsity Eagles, they won a pair of state titles his freshman (1980-81) and sophomore (1981-82) seasons. The Eagles went 23-6 Reeves’ junior year and 21-3 his senior year, heading into the playoffs as the No. 1 team, but Hobbs lost to Santa Fe in the opening round. Reeves never won a title as a player, but the Eagles were collecting championship banners again in 1987 and 1988.

“We were the No. 1 team in the state, but we ended up losing in the first round to Santa Fe,” Reeves said.

He averaged 16.3 points a game during his varsity career with the Eagles.

After high school, Reeves went to college, playing basketball at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma. However, he left after his junior year to play for the Harlem Globetrotters and then the Magicians. Reeves’ name while playing was “Smooth as Silk”.

“I played with the Globetrotters for six months and then I played with Marques Haynes’ Magicians for a year,” Reeves said. “Marques Haynes was one of the original Globetrotters. He helped me get with the Globetrotters and they had a falling out, so I went back to him.”

During his time with the Globetrotters and the Magicians, Reeves picked up a few things that he would use when he started coaching the Mascots. He went from being a quiet kid to putting on a show.

“At halftime a lot of people didn’t even leave to go to the concession stands,” Reeves said. “They wanted to see the show we put on. We had the lights off and we put spotlights on. We called them from the locker and the last kid was a talented kid. He came running out of the locker room and did flips all the way to the middle of the floor where he did the splits. … It was fun. I think playing with Marques Haynes and the Globetrotters got me like that, performing in front of people.”

Public service was part of Reeves’ time with the Globetrotters and the Magicians. They would talk to the youths and spectators about things they would deal with in life.

Reeves had an offer to play professionally overseas, but a back injury prevented that from happening. So, with Reeves’ time with the Globetrotters and Magicians over, and his plans to play professionally gone, he found his way back to Hobbs where he went on to become a basketball coach.

“I always thought that was a plus as everything happens for a reason,” Reeves said. “I started thinking about doing what I was doing over there, talking to kids, but I had the high school’s basketball team doing it. At that time, each team had to do a community type service for the school. … I thought if we put on a show with the basketball team, talking about character counts and stuff like that, it would be wonderful.”

While watching CNN, something Reeves says he watches regularly, he saw a report about bullying. Understanding how bullying can affect kids, he decided to switch his team’s program from Character Counts to one that looks at stopping bullying. At first the program was called Knock Out Bullying, but it eventually became known as Speak Love.

The first year of the new bullying program was the same time a Highland Middle School student took his own life.

“People were talking about it all over and all of a sudden, this young lady Breanna Ellison told me there were a lot of kids going out and wanting to talk to the schools about bullying and the school told us you have a program,” Reeves remembered. “I told her on Tuesday we were going to go to Coronado, if you want to come and watch what we do, you might like it.

“She came, I handed her the paper and said, ‘It is your show,'” he continued. “She looked at me and within five minutes, she did the show better than me. After that season where we did it with the basketball team and her, we opened it up to the whole school.”

The program took off from there. The first year it was open to anyone, Reeves said there were nine students involved, and they were the top nine students in the senior class. Next to join was one of the top students in the junior class and suddenly the bullying program was being run by what Reeves called “the smart kids”.

“I just sat back and watched,” he said. “They were like, coach Reeves, we want to do this, this, and this. Next year we want to get a bag for every student in Lea County.”

Though Tasker started the summer program back in the 1950s, the summer program also grew and benefited from Reeves’ presence. The program put the kids in the gym during the summer. For the younger kids, it was a place to send kids during the summer while parents worked. For older kids, it was a way to make money helping teach and play sports with the younger kids while also being seen by the high school coaches who helped with the program.

“It was really just basketball back (during Tasker’s time), but football also became a part of it too,” Reeves said. “When I came (back), I added tennis and volleyball and soccer and wrestling and cheerleading. I started adding groups a little bit at a time. My deal was with it being free, there should be no kid sitting on the couch at home with all these opportunities.”

Reeves’ coaching tenure covers 29 years, 28 of which have been right here in Hobbs. The one year Reeves coached elsewhere was the year (1992-93) he and Mike Smith were coaches in Cobre. After that one season, Smith went to Las Cruces and Reeves came back to Hobbs. He has been here ever since.

When he returned to Hobbs High School and started coaching, Reeves started with the Lady Eagles before switching to the Eagles. He coached in Hobbs while Ralph Tasker was still walking the Tasker Arena baseline. He coached during Russ Gilmore’s tenure, with Johnny Casaus and then with Smith.

While he didn’t win a title as a player, or as a head coach, Reeves did win three as an assistant coach. His first came in 2003 as an assistant to Casaus with the Lady Eagles. He then won a title as an assistant to Russ Gilmore with the Eagles in 2008. Reeves’ final championship ring came as an assistant to Mike Smith in 2015, the Eagles’ most recent state championship.

Even without head coaching and player championship, Reeves had plenty of other successes. As a player, he helped the Eagles with the Hobbs Holiday Tournament championship in 1983, beating Altus, Oklahoma 82-79 in double overtime. As the head coach, Reeves’ Eagles won the Hobbs Holiday Tournament in 2021, routing Cleveland 77-53.

Several coaches have won a title for Hobbs basketball, but Reeves is the only Hobbs coach to earn a ring as both a coach of the Lady Eagles and the Eagles.

“Something that is kind of crazy,” Reeves said, “I am actually one of the only (coaches) with (a championship) on the boys and girls teams.”

Over his six seasons as the Eagles’ coach, Reeves compiled a 98-55 record. The Eagles had a .641 winning percentage under Reeves. Hobbs had one losing season during that time, going 12-16 this past season. Hobbs’ last losing season before the 2023-24 campaign was in 2010-11 when the Eagles were 12-17 during Russ Gilmore’s final year.

Reeves’ team lost more than two-thirds of a season thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and 2021. His Eagles team didn’t even get a full schedule of regular season games. Each team was allowed to play 12 games before the postseason and the Eagles only got to play 10 games in 2020, going 6-4. Looking back, that lost season cost Reeves his chance at winning 100 games as a head coach.

“I am not going to lie and say I didn’t want to get to 100,” Reeves said, “but these kids played hard. They played. I tell a lot of people, there are a lot of games we should have won that we lost by one, lost by two. But there were also a lot of games we won by one or two.

“The Covid year, yeah, it ruined a lot of things,” Reeves continued. “I had a pretty good team that year. But it was Roswell’s year because they had those seniors then and Carlsbad had those good juniors.”

Reeves’ best year as the Eagles head coach came in 2021-22 when the Eagles were 26-3. Hobbs won the district title that year with a 6-0 record and had the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. Hobbs easily took care of Farmington in the first round, but lost to fifth-seeded Atrisco Heritage in the second round.

The Eagles have not won a playoff game since beating Farmington in 2022. They lost their only playoff game in 2023 and failed to make the postseason this past season.

“I don’t regret anything,” Reeves said. “I don’t regret any of that stuff. Yeah, I was on championships as assistant coach and stuff like that, but not as a head coach. But I don’t regret stuff like that. Would I have loved to win one, yes. But that doesn’t define the coach in me and the person.”

Reeves coached some great players during his tenure as head coach. When pressed to name a starting five of the players he was the head coach for, Reeves eventually named his five.

“They wouldn’t be considered point or whatever because they all can handle the ball,” Reeves said. “I would go with Rae Tarin, Jalen Goar, Michael Mackey, Teren Smith, and Jalen Young.”

Hobbs is Reeves’ home. It is where he is from. It is where he grew up, went to school, became a teacher and a coach, raised his oldest son (a 2010 Hobbs graduate), started programs to help kids. He did all of that right here in Hobbs. But, eventually, the time comes when it is time to move on and for Reeves, after 50 years in Hobbs, that time is now.

Reeves’ son Shelby Reeves Jr. played for the Eagles from 2008 through 2010, averaging 12.1 points per game along with 2.3 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game. His son also did something as a player that Reeves didn’t, winning a state title. Shelby Reeves Jr. won a title with the 2008 Eagles, though the elder Reeves also got one that year, his first with the Eagles, as an assistant coach.

“I am leaving now. I think it is time,” he said. “I think it is a great time. I probably could have left a year ago or so, but when the right pieces have started falling in, who better than Ronald Ross? I am tickled to death. I am leaving smiling. I think Coach Tasker would be smiling too.”

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