Goleta Native Kirk Reynolds Bids 49ers Coach Bill Walsh Farewell
Memorializing a Football King
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Kirk Reynolds will not likely attain the prominence of the great quarterbacks groomed by Bill Walsh-namely, Joe Montana and Steve Young-but he was the last person to call the signals for the legendary football coach. It was a heady experience for Reynolds, a Goleta native who pursued a career in sports publicity after graduating from UCSB. He was the San Francisco 49ers’ director of public relations for six years.
Kirk Reynolds (right) preps Jeremy Newberry and offensive line coach Pat Morris before a game at Cincinnati.
Walsh put Reynolds in charge of his funeral arrangements. The planning began nine months ago when Walsh, suffering from acute leukemia, realized this opponent would be insurmountable. He died July 30. Eleven days later, the services proceeded, with all the speakers and music that Walsh requested, at Stanford Memorial Chapel.
The next day, August 10, Reynolds improvised. He organized a public memorial attended by 8,000 people at Candlestick Park. (Reynolds refused to recognize the stadium’s new name, Monster Park, because “it was Candlestick when Bill’s teams played there.”) Mayor Gavin Newsom proclaimed that the football field would be called Bill Walsh Field.
On the 13th day, Reynolds rested. “I’m really tired, but I need a workout, too,” he said. “It’s been 16-hour days and eating pizza since Bill passed away.”
Reynolds was grateful for the gig. He had missed out on the glory days of the ‘Niners. Walsh was general manager in 1999 when Reynolds was promoted to PR director, but the former coach departed soon after, as the NFL franchise underwent the throes of a difficult ownership change.
“Everybody talks about Walsh’s precision offense, but he built a whole culture in which the 49ers thrived,” Reynolds said. “The new owners [Denise DeBartolo York and John York] dismantled it.” His involvement in preserving Walsh’s legacy “definitely connected me to the era of the Super Bowl triumphs,” Reynolds said. “I have relationships with a bunch of guys from that era.”
Walsh entertained Reynolds with his sense of humor during his final days. The 42-year-old publicist learned from former ‘Niners that the coach had always been a creative and inveterate jokester, like the time he posed as a bellhop at the team’s hotel before its first Super Bowl in 1982. “He knew how to break up tensions and get people to focus on what they should be focusing on,” Reynolds said.
Montecito resident Bradford Dillman, a longtime ‘Niners fan (one of his cars has the one and only “SF 49ERS” license plate), also remembers Walsh with poignant fondness. Walsh befriended Dillman and invited him to the “war room” where the 49ers made their NFL draft picks. “He allowed this demented Hollywood actor to be there when they selected Joe Montana, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice,” said Dillman, 77. “I’m delighted they named the field after Bill.”
WEEKEND WRAP: San Marcos High volleyball coach Jon Lee saw two of his former players, Todd Rogers and Dax Holdren, reach the finals of the prestigious AVP Manhattan Beach Open; another, Anthony Medel, made it to the semifinals. In the NBC broadcast booth was Karch Kiraly, who played his first tournament in 1978 with Lee as his partner. Kiraly hopes his injured calf heals so he can play again before retiring at the end of the season. Rogers and Phil Dalhausser won their second straight title in “the Wimbledon of beach volleyball” Sunday, defeating Holdren and Sean Scott, 20-22, 21-16, and 15-11. : Not so successful in defending their championship were the Santa Barbara Foresters at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita. But they sure did try. After dropping an early game in the double-elimination tournament, they won four in a row and were among the last six teams standing out of 42 at the start of the event. Then a 7-6 loss to the Havasu Heat, the eventual undefeated champion, sent the Foresters home.