As Terrance Dickens searched for a boys basketball head coaching job in recent years, one school particularly intrigued him.
“I always said to myself, 'If that Reynolds job ever comes open, I'm going to apply for it,'” he said.
With its demographic and massive enrollment (2,227), Dickens believes Reynolds has tremendous potential. And now, after assisting at Benson since 2015, he will get a chance to make it happen as the Raiders' head coach.
“Reynolds is a good fit for me,” Dickens said. “Over the last 15, 20 years, African-American kids growing up in north and northeast Portland, they kind of moved out in that area, you know Gresham, Troutdale, Wood Village.
“So those are some of the people I grew up with. I think I can relate a little bit more to some of those kids, and I hope I can build something out there.”
Dickens will replace Ted Aubin, who went 38-105 in six seasons. Since a 16-9 record in 2014-15, Reynolds hasn't had a winning season, going a combined 9-64 in the last three years.
Getting the Raiders to a competitive level will be a difficult chore in the tough Mt. Hood Conference, which has some of the state's top 6A programs in Barlow, Clackamas and Central Catholic.
“I'm not saying that I'm going to be a savior. I just know what I can do,” Dickens said. “I can hopefully do some of the things that I've done and executed. Hopefully, in the next three or four years, we'll be competing for a championship at the 6A level.”
Dickens, who lives in Milwaukie, owns a used car dealership in southeast Portland and owns and operates a foster group home for the state.
He grew up in northeast Portland and attended Grant before graduating from David Douglas in 1990. He worked as a camp instructor before making his mark as a coach in the International Basketball League, leading the minor league Portland Chinooks to three league runner-up finishes in five seasons (2007-12).
His Chinooks teams included former college players God Shammgod (Providence), David Lucas (Oregon State), David Jackson (Wilson HS, Oregon), Robert Day (Benson HS, Western Oregon) and Bonell Colas (Florida).
“My 2007 team was probably one of the best minor league teams put together, as far as talent,” Dickens said. “I had some big-time players.”
In 2012, Dickens started the PDX High School Basketball Academy for Portland-area youth who were not on their high school teams. He stepped away from it in 2015.
“It got too big for me. I didn't have enough coaches and enough gyms,” he said.
Dickens said that a call from Benson coach Earl Clark led to him joining the Techmen staff in 2015. During his time at Benson, Dickens coached the freshmen and JV and served as a varsity assistant, focusing on the defense.
Learning under Clark, and going up against successful Portland Interscholastic League coaches such as Jefferson's Pat Strickland and Grant's Robert Key, helped prepare him to be a head coach, he said.
“I watched and I picked their brains,” Dickens said. “I learned a lot. Being a head coach is more than about Xs and Os. I'm a leader of men, so I think I'll do all right.”
Dickens said he will be looking for players that “want to be a part of something big.” He plans to start by building a connection with the youth.
“I want to go down to the second- and third-grade levels, and kind of build a community base,” Dickens said. “I'll be at those fifth- and sixth-grade games on Saturday mornings. They didn't just get a high school basketball coach out there, they're going to get somebody to come out there and really, really get behind Reynolds athletics.”
He brings a defense-first mentality to the Raiders. He plans to pick up the pressure defense and keep the offense simple as the players adjust to his coaching style.
“I hope I can come up there and have some fun, and help some kids learn some things outside of basketball, and help Reynolds grow and get to where they need to be," he said. "I'm a Raider now.”