Brian Rea didn't want to be a distraction, but he hoped to inject some holiday spirit into the Payson Seymour boys basketball team's final pre-Christmas game.
So before the Indians faced Brimfield at home last Saturday, the Payson head coach showed his team the suit he planned to wear and he gave them the power to veto it.
"I asked the seniors, ‘Do you guys have a problem with it?" Rea said of his blue-and-white suit adorned with snowflakes and reindeer. "I didn't want it to take away from the big game we were going to play, but I wanted them to be OK with me having some fun as long as it didn't hinder our performance. They were like, ‘No, that's sweet.'"
The Indians were in a festive mood themselves, asking Rea if they could wear Santa hats during the pregame.
"I let them do it and they didn't disappoint either," Rea said after the Indians picked up a 55-52 victory to improve to 10-0 as they head to the Greenview Holiday Tournament later this week. "We didn't play our best, but we played a really successful program and they played their butts off and we got over the hump."
The Indians have done that a lot during Rea's decade-long tenure at the helm.
Saturday's victory was No. 227 in his Payson career, moving him past Art Loy as the program's winningest coach. It's a meaningful milestone considering how many coaching luminaries have led the Payson program, but moreso because it brings attention to the type of kids Rea has coached and the commitment they've made.
""We've had a lot of good kids who were hungry for winning and wanted to try to build a quality small-school program," Rea said. "They've taken to it and they've not disappointed."
Nor have they disappointed in their post-high school careers. Several former Payson players are playing collegiately or previously did. A vast number of them were in attendance Saturday to celebrate Rea's success and influence.
"As much as I want to win, I want them to win as men in their lives," Rea said. "Then I know I've done the right job. I know it sounds kind of cliche, but I really try not to just pay lip service to it and let the winning stuff overtake that. We talk everyday about how we have some really good kids who keep coming back for games and supporting their program and taking pride in it."
Those alums will have a little further to travel during the holidays to keep up with the Indians this season.
Payson gave up its traditional spot in the MVIT in order to join the six-team field at Greenview. It offers the opportunity to see teams not on the regular-season schedule and experience the bonding ritual bigger schools achieve by playing in holiday tournaments two or more hours from home.
This won't be a short bus ride across the county.
"We get to leave Adams County, and we get to stay a night in a hotel," Rea said. "We'll get to go to the mall in Springfield, eat some meals together and have some fun. It's a little more of a postseason feel where you're traveling, doing things together and playing on a short scout. It's going to be fun."
It could be big dividends as far as postseason seeding goes, too.
Payson isn't lumped with the other Adams County or regional schools in the Lewistown Sectional. Instead, the Indians will be in the Class 1A Dupo Sectional and will face a number of Jacksonville and Springfield areas schools.
Should the Indians have success at Greenview, it could open the door for a high sub-sectional seed.
"This was a nice, logical step for us to be able to do something different," Rea said.
And he has a team capable of doing something special under new circumstances.
"I like their chemistry," Rea said. "I like that they pull for each other. They're very positive with each other. They love the program and bring their own special blend of personality and talents together and have a good time.
"I don't know where it will take us. They have that feel where it's not me having to drive the bus motivationally all the time. I motivate them a little bit, but they know when we go out there and the ball is tipped that it's us against them."
Together, the Indians hope more milestones can be reached, and you better count on them being dressed to impress when that happens.