Brian Reese: I'm originally from Brook Park, Ohio, and we moved to the Detroit area when I was in elementary school. So we call Detroit home... Sterling Heights, really. I did my undergraduate work at a small Division II school, Grand Valley State. From there, I went to the University of Tulsa and got my Master's there in Athletic Administration.
At that time I was more into Sports Medicine. My first job was at The Citadel as the Assistant Director of Sports Medicine. I spent about six or seven years there. The head Athletic Trainer's job came open at Furman, and I applied and got it. Coach [Bobby] Johnson hired me, and I've been with him ever since. That was in January, 1995.
VM: What do you remember about the first time you and Coach Johnson met?
Brian Reese: The first time I met him was on the interview. Everybody in the Southern Conference at least knew of him, because he was a long-time coach there. He had great respect from everyone in that conference.
VM: Then in 2001, he tells you he's taking the Vanderbilt job, and invites you to come along. Could you fill in the details on how that all transpired?
Brian Reese: It was during the Division I-AA playoffs, and we had to spend a lot of time together going over plans for the playoffs. He would bring up little things... one day I asked him how it was going, and he said Vanderbilt was looking better each week. "They keep coming back asking questions about me." He told me, "There might be an opportunity for you to come with me. What role, I don't know, but I've got a couple of ideas." I said, just call me, and I'll be there tomorrow. After he got settled here in Nashville, he called me that spring and said he needed some help running the office, doing travel, and helping clear a bunch of stuff off his plate. Would I want to come be the Football Operations guy? At Furman I had had to do a lot of that anyway. Besides being head athletic trainer, I had to oversee all the sports medicine stuff. I wondered what it would be like to either do one or the other, head trainer or operations guy.
So the wife and I had a long talk about it. I called around to some of my mentors in athletic training, and asked them what they thought, and finally pulled the trigger and went. And to be honest, if it had been anybody else in the country who had called and asked me to do this, I'd have said no. I had a great career in athletic training. I wasn't burned out from it. I was still happy doing it, even working all those hours. Being around all the different athletes was great. But I thought this was an incredible opportunity, and I had the utmost trust and faith in Coach Johnson.
I asked him one time, "Can we really do it there?" And he said, "There's no question about it." So I said, all right, I'm coming. That's really how it went. Any other coach in the SEC, I'd have said no, not interested.
VM: In that respect, I guess, you've had a quick rise. Suddenly you're in this position of great authority in Vanderbilt's athletic department. Do you feel like you're well-prepared for it, or do you feel you're flying by the seat of the pants sometimes?
Brian Reese: Oh no, I feel very prepared. This is where a lot of people get kind of confused about what I'm doing. The last couple of years, everything football-related had to cross my desk anyway. Whether it's contracts, or housing for athletes, anything remotely related to football, I had to see it first. So, you know how it is, you ask questions, and you get a feel for things. Then I would bring things to Coach Johnson that I thought he needed to see, and we went from there. So really, I knew everything that was going on anyway. When people ask me, are you ready to run a football program, well, I've essentially been running it the last two years. Steve Franks, who was the former Associate AD, was fantastic, and was great to bounce things off of, and he helped me along.
A lot of it in athletics is based on past experiences. I know what Coach Johnson likes, and what he doesn't like. My biggest responsibility is to make sure he doesn't get earholed or surprised by anything. I've got constant access to him. I can bust in his office any time, no big deal.
Basically I think everyone knows when they're ready to take on more responsibility. I knew I was ready at the time, and when [Vice Chancellor] David [Williams] came and asked me, I jumped at the chance.
In part two of this two-part interview, Reese talks about women's bowling, which will become Vanderbilt's newest varsity sport next fall.