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Original Issue

Jerry Reynolds

If you could choose one person with whom to be shipwrecked on a deserted island, you would be wise to forgo the models, the actors, the sex symbols and to select, instead, Sacramento King general manager Jerry Reynolds. This is not because the 49-year-old Reynolds is good-looking—"Larry Bird and I might be the two best-looking people from French Lick, Indiana," he says, "so that ought to tell you what kind of ugly rascals they got living in that town"—but because Reynolds has the best survival instincts since Gilligan and the other castaways.

Only Reynolds could have made it through the wreckage that has been the Sacramento franchise for the last eight years. He has watched coaches come and go, From Bill Russell and Dick Motta to Phil Johnson and Rex Hughes. He has seen bad drafts (1986 first-round pick Harold Pressley averaged nine points in four seasons with the Kings) and worse trades. He has endured the sale of the franchise (to rive local businessmen in 1992), and loss after loss (the Kings haven't won more than 29 games in a season since 1985-86). Yet Reynolds hasn't just survived; he has flourished, rising from scout to assistant coach to interim head coach to head coach to director of player personnel and finally, in 1992, to general manager. "I've had every job except trainer," he says. "But come to think of it, I've taped a few ankles in my time, too."

Reynolds's combination of folksy charm and self-deprecating wit has helped make him one of Sacramento's most popular figures. It's hard to rip him because he beats everyone to the punch. "We've had such bad luck with injuries I even broke my wrist playing tennis over the summer," he says. "Of course, most people in Sacramento would consider that good luck." When, in 1988, he passed out on the sidelines while coaching, he said it was because "the blood couldn't make it to my little brain."

But some say that Reynolds's best survival technique is his ability to elude blame. He has subtly made sure that the Kings' blunders—for example, the 1988 trade of a blossoming Otis Thorpe and the 1989 acquisition of a broken-down Ralph Sampson—don't reflect badly on him. "There were trades I should have spoken up on, even though I wasn't in the position to make the final decisions," says Reynolds, who was head coach when both the Thorpe and the Sampson deals were consummated. But now, with a new five-year contract and the power to make those final decisions, Reynolds can no longer shift the credit or blame. "We've had some good drafts lately, with Lionel Simmons [1990] and Walt Williams [1992]," he says. "I've tried not to make trades. That's what led to instability. When you're in a hole, you stop digging."

There is the feeling that if 1993 first-round pick Bobby Hurley fizzles and the Kings don't improve upon last season's 25-57 record, Reynolds's charmed life with the Kings will be in jeopardy, even with his new contract. But Reynolds is optimistic. A friend from his home town—actually, Reynolds is from Hillham, a small town outside French Lick—recently told him how glad he was that success hadn't gone to Reynolds's head. Replied Reynolds, "That's because I haven't had any yet. But when I do, I plan to get egotistical as all get-out."