By Walter Villa
Jud Buechler won three NBA titles as a member of the Chicago Bulls, but that’s not what makes him a great dad.
Buechler, 43, retired in 2002, and his main activity for the past decade has been raising his daughters, Reily, 16, and Brynn, 14, and coaching them in club volleyball.
And it’s that quality time spent with Reily and Brynn that the girls truly appreciate.
“Whenever I have an issue with school or just regular life, he is super understanding,” Reily said. “He puts the problem into the perspective of his own life. He’ll say: ‘Look at me, I turned out OK, and I went through the same things.’ ”
Reily, a 6-1½ outside hitter, will start her junior year at Torrey Pines (San Diego, Calif.) this fall. She is a highly recruited star with offers from Stanford, UCLA and Southern Cal.
She said she wants to stay on the West Coast for college but hasn’t decided where. She can certainly turn to her dad for recruiting advice because Buechler was a standout athlete in high school who went on to play for Arizona.
From there, he was a second-round pick of the Seattle SuperSonics (1990) and went on to play for seven NBA teams. He only averaged 3.3 points in his career, but the 6-6 guard/forward stuck for 12 years in the NBA.
Soon after retirement, Buechler started coaching Reily with the Waves club team. She was 9 at the time, and as she has moved up in the age categories, Buechler has served as an assistant coach with each of those Waves teams.
Blazing her own trail
Brynn, a 5-7½ setter who will be a freshman at Torrey Pines this fall, has not worked with her dad nearly as much as Reily.
“My dad is the best dad ever,” Brynn said. “I love him so much. I would never ask for another dad. He handles everything perfectly.”
One of the things he “handled” was when Brynn told him recently that she would rather someone else serve as her coach on the Waves.
“He has been coaching Reily a long time and taken her a long way,” Brynn said. “She’s really good.
“He’s been coaching me for three years, but I’m my own person. I told him that I want to play like I want to play. My sister can take direction and do it exactly like he wants. For me, it takes a little longer.”
Brynn acknowledged that she feels pressure to be as good as her sister. But, Brynn said, that just makes her want to push herself harder to “get respect.”
The family adjusts
Things at home haven’t always gone perfectly, either. Buechler’s marriage to the girls’ mother, Lindsey, broke up about six months ago, and they now share custody.
“He has handled the divorce thing really well with us three as a family,” Brynn said. “He understands how we feel. We can communicate with each other really well.”
Reily said that a positive that emerged from the situation was that she bonded more with her mother when she spent time at her house. And Brynn bonded more with her dad when she spent a couple of weeks living with him. Previously, the stronger connections were Reily with her dad and Brynn with her mother.
“It was good for us,” Reily said. “Our lives changed so much. Everything that I saw as true and real has changed. It was a good eye-opener.
“But we are still doing well in school, and we all get to see each other a lot.”
United by sports
Buechler and his daughters enjoy surfing and watching NBA games on television together.
And, of course, there’s always volleyball. At club practices, Buechler, who was a high school volleyball star himself, will often get in there and show his skills.
In the car rides home, volleyball is usually a main topic.
In May, Reily returned from taking eight months off to rest her shoulder.
“When Reily was a freshman and made varsity, she took a lot of swings for a 14-year-old,” Buechler said. “She had soreness in her shoulder, and we rested her. But the time off was good.”
Reily will compete in the Girls’ Junior National Championships, also known as the Junior Olympics, set for June 28-July 7 in Columbus, Ohio.
Reily’s club teams twice earned bronze medals at the event but have yet to win a national title.
This year’s team, 17Jeanne, named after head coach Jeanne Reeves, is stocked with Division I recruits.
Buechler calls Maddy Kerr (Cal recruit), Ryann Chandler (Pepperdine) and Reily “the three original gangsters” because they have played together for the past seven years. Maddy is the daughter of ex-NBA player Steve Kerr, and Ryann’s father, Chris Chandler, was an NFL quarterback.
“I look at all these girls like my daughters,” Buechler said. “It’s been incredible to see them grow from little girls to young women.”