"This wouldn't be my choice of a way to learn the profession at this level," said Reynolds, whose 17-34 Kings meet the Sixers tonight at the Spectrum.
"I would have preferred two or three years as an assistant to get ready, but, instead, I've been thrown in to this. Sometimes, though, you're more ready than you think."
Reynolds, 42, most recently worked as a coach at Pittsburg State in Kansas and Rockhurst College in Missouri. He came to the Kings last season as a scout and bench assistant, and was literally wired for the job during home games. He was hooked up to an audio-visual system that allowed him to relay information to the Kings' video expert preparing tapes for halftime replay in the locker room.
So far, so good. Reynolds is 3-2 and has made 6-7 rookie Harold Pressley - the former Villanova hero - a starting guard for the last four. That move was designed to more closely examine Pressley's potential, but also to placate Derek Smith, who had been less than ecstatic about being in the same backcourt as Reggie Theus.
The results on Pressley (4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists as a starter) have been inconclusive, but Smith has averaged 21.3 points coming off the bench.
"Derek had not been consistent the way we had been going, and I figured the best way to find out about Harold is to stick him in and see what happens," Reynolds said. "It has helped both guys. Harold still doesn't play as much as Derek, but we're not sure what he is yet, either. He could be a shooting guard, a small forward, possibly even a point guard.
"The thing is, he has to do certain things when he's in there, and sometimes that's easier as a starter. As a sub, you can feel you have to do a lot in a short time, and any time you try that, usually you just look bad."
Pressley at least has the comfort of a four-year contract, believed to be worth $755,000 through the first three seasons, plus an option year at $325,000. Reynolds, on the other hand, is working on his original assistant's contract, and is being paid an additional weekly sum.
"It's better than not being paid at all," he said. "They (the Kings' management) told me up front they were going to do it that way. I suppose I could have asked for a different circumstance, but I'm OK this way. I've told them, if they can get somebody better to do this job, they should. I also know I'm not exactly out there looking to buy a Mercedes."
The Kings have told Reynolds he will remain with the team next season, either as the head coach or in some other coaching capacity. He hasn't asked about his competition for the job.
"When they fired Phil (and assistant Frank Hamblen), maybe it was a bad time to get the man they wanted, if they know who that man is. I've told them I'll do the best I can, whether it's for two weeks, a year, 10 years or 'til whatever happens.
"It's a tough situation, in that Phil and Frank are my friends. But I need a job, and Phil knows I didn't fire him or hire myself.
"As a coach, though, I always believe I can do something to help a situation. In this case, I'm trying to get the guys to play together a little more, to be a little happier. We need to come to grips with where we are, what we have and what we need."
Reynolds spent one season at Pittsburg State and finished 16-14, the school's first winning record in nine years. He was 174-81 in nine seasons at Rockhurst, and became the winningest coach the school had had in its 64-year history.
"One thing I know now is, college ball doesn't prepare you for the NBA," he said. "The communication, the motivation is very different. I'm so new at this on this level, I'm almost on an unequal basis. In small college basketball, you take a group of players and try to make them better. In major
college basketball, a lot of schools seem to get players and, if they don't work out, they recruit other players around them. I liked it on the small
college level, where you committed yourself to the players, and they committed themselves to you.
"Now I'm in the NBA, but I'm not under any illusions. People ask why I got this job, and I tell them I didn't ask for it, but that I do have some ability. I'm not the best coach in the world, but I haven't exactly failed along the way, either."
The last guy to arrive in the NBA from French Lick was Boston's Larry Bird.
"People know I'm from the same town," Reynolds said. "I never worked in the piano factory back there, but I say I don't want to go back to the piano factory as a figure of speech. There's a nice hotel there, too, but I don't want to work there, either.
"What I have where I am is a nice opportunity, but I'm not married to the idea. My ego could stand not being a head coach. When I first came to Sacramento, I wanted to be the best assistant and scout I could be. I would have taken great pride in that. But I'm also a company man, a team guy. The reality is, if we lose the rest of our games, I'd never get another chance,
because people looking at the record wouldn't understand the circumstances."
But he understands.
"My wife thinks I'm big time now," Jerry Reynolds said. "She said she was going out to buy a vacuum cleaner.
"I told her to wait another week."