Brothers back on sidelines coaching together

Looking at their paths in life, Ryan and Reagan Eakins have several similarities.

Both graduated from Seymour High School — Ryan in 2006 and Reagan in 2008 — and played basketball under head coach Scott Miller and baseball under head coach Bob Bowman.

Both then went to Grace College — Ryan graduating in 2010 with a social studies education degree and Reagan finishing in 2012 with a math education degree.

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Both then started teaching careers and became basketball coaches.

When Ryan was the head coach at Bremen High School from 2011 to 2015, Reagan was his varsity assistant for three years.

Ryan then became a teacher and head coach at East Noble High School in Kendallville, and Reagan became an assistant at Wawasee High School in Syracuse.

Now, they are back together on the sidelines with Reagan filling an opening on Ryan’s staff at East Noble.

“I have a lot of trust in him,” Ryan, 30, said of his brother. “He’s a guy that is not a yes man. He’s going to tell me what he thinks, and he understands the game. He’s a great coach, and any coach wants great assistants, and I’m very fortunate that he’s going to be able to help us out this year because I think he’s going to help make us a better program.”

Since Reagan, 28, lives in Warsaw, which is an hour from Kendallville, he will be doing a lot of traveling back and forth.

“It took a couple of times asking me, but eventually, the pieces fell together, and the fit was right,” Reagan said. “The more I’m around the coaching staff and the players, I just am even more reassured that it was the right thing to do. It’s the right fit.”

The brothers recently visited their hometown when East Noble competed in the Summit Camp shootout at Seymour High School’s Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium.

That brought back memories from their playing days.

“Obviously, this is one of the best basketball facilities in the country at the high school level. It’s just fantastic,” Ryan said of the third-largest high school gym in the country with a capacity of 8,110.

The Owls won 16 games and made it to the sectional championship game on their home court during Ryan’s junior year, losing to Jennings County by two points. Then they won 15 games his senior season.

“That sectional championship versus Jennings County in 2005 was a great experience,” Ryan said. “I thought it was really, really good for this school and community.”

Both brothers won awards for their high school sports careers, but they agreed the relationships they developed with their teammates and coaches mean the most.

“Both coach Miller and coach Bowman are two guys that I have a lot of respect for and two guys that I very much appreciate all that they invested into the programs here,” Ryan said. “A lot of value has been taken from my days playing here.”

Reagan said the bonds created with his teammates and coaches are going to last a long time.

“Just unbelievable atmosphere and unbelievable teammates,” he said. “Coach Bowman and coach Miller really cared about us and invested a lot of time for us, and I just learned a ton from them.”

The brothers also lauded teachers they had for leading them to go into education.

For Ryan, it was two social studies teachers — Leon Seitz in sixth grade and Doug Thompson in seventh grade.

“Those two guys really inspired me to be a social studies educator,” Ryan said. “They were both very competent in their subject area, but they were really, really good at holding high expectations for their students but also forming the relationships. They are just guys that I have a tremendous amount of respect for, and those are the types of guys that I try to emulate in my classroom.”

For Reagan, it was his middle school math teacher, Wayne Huddleston.

“I had him for all three years of middle school math,” Reagan said. “At the time, it drove me insane, and then once I left his class, I realized how unbelievable he was. He’s awesome.”

At Grace College in Winona Lake, the brothers played baseball for four years, and Ryan also played basketball for three years.

Both said their best memories are spring break trips to Florida every year and playing baseball together for two years.

“We got to start many games together. We both played the left side of the infield, and that was cool,” Reagan said.

“That was a lot of fun,” Ryan said. “Not a lot of people get to do that, play with their brother. That was a pretty neat experience.”

Ryan then coached basketball at Grace College and Crossroads League foe Mount Vernon Nazarene University in Ohio.

Then he was the head coach at Bremen High School for four years and was an assistant coach at Columbus North High School for a year before landing at East Noble.

Ryan is entering his third year as a teacher and coach at East Noble, while it will be Reagan’s fifth year at Wawasee.

Since they were last together on the sidelines, the brothers said they have improved as coaches.

“I’ve matured a lot and learned how to be an assistant coach better,” Reagan said. “I think it was kind of good for us to take a few years apart. I think we both learned a lot about ourselves, and then just working with each other, I think we’ll be better at that, understanding kind of how each guy works and what you can say and what you should probably hold back.”

Ryan said he has learned to rely more on his assistant coaches.

“(Reagan) and our other assistants, they bring a lot to the table,” Ryan said. “They bring a lot of knowledge, and I need to be able to turn some things over to them, trust their opinion, trust what they do and be able to allow them to use their personalities and their abilities to impact kids. That’s what we should be about. My staff is really, really good interacting with kids, and they need to be able to have some freedoms how they do that.”

After going 13-11 in Ryan’s first season, the Knights went 21-3 in 2017-18.

He said he has a tremendous group of returning players.

“In coaching, it’s a lot more about the Jimmys and Joes than the X’s and O’s,” he said. “We’ve got really good kids that are really good players that are coachable, and that has been an absolute blessing to be a part of is our kids are willing to be taught, and they are willing to learn and get better.”

The Knights played more than 20 games in June and practiced three days a week. Many of the players also are involved in AAU, so they play year-round.

“We’ve tried to balance between not playing too much but playing enough,” Ryan said of the summer.

As the brothers continue to prepare for the winter season, they will rely on each other’s strengths in leading the Knights.

“He’s really good at understanding how to adapt your style to the team and the type of kids that you have. You’re not necessarily set on one style of basketball,” Ryan said of his brother.

“He’s also really good at scouting and game preparation, and he sees in-game adjustments on the fly,” Ryan said. “As a head coach, sometimes, you’re so focused on the overall picture, you don’t see the little things, and he’s really, really good at the little details and in-game adjustments as we go along.”

Reagan said his brother does a good job with the X’s and O’s and relating to his players.

“If they have something big going on in life, he is one of the first guys they are coming to,” Reagan said of Ryan. “He has a really good relationship with them. I think that’s one of the most important things as a teacher and as a coach is being able to relate to your kids and having that trust and level of understanding where your guys can talk. They know that he might get after them, but at the end of the day, it’s because he cares.”

Both plan to stay with coaching and teaching as long as they can.

“As of now, I’m pretty content in it, so that’s the plan,” Reagan said.

“I think education is a definite need in our society,” Ryan said. “We need really good people. We need really good men that are in education that can model what an adult male citizen looks like. I just absolutely love the chance to be around kids every day. I’m blessed to do it, and I hopefully will do it as long as I’m allowed to.”

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“He’s a great coach, and any coach wants great assistants, and I’m very fortunate that he’s going to be able to help us out this year because I think he’s going to help make us a better program.”

East Noble High School boys basketball head coach Ryan Eakins on his younger brother, Reagan Eakins, joining him this year as a varsity assistant

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Name: Ryan Eakins

Age: 30

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Kendallville

Education: Seymour High School (2006); Grace College (social studies education degree, 2010)

Occupation: Social studies teacher and boys basketball head coach at East Noble High School

Family: Wife, Meredith Eakins; son, Parker Eakins, 6 months; parents, Ray and Pam Eakins; brother, Reagan Eakins

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Name: Reagan Eakins

Age: 28

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Warsaw

Education: Seymour High School (2008); Grace College (math education degree, 2012)

Occupation: Math teacher at Wawasee High School and boys basketball varsity assistant coach at East Noble High School

Family: Parents, Ray and Pam Eakins; brother, Ryan Eakins