By Sarah J. Perez
As much as he loves winning, Greg Herrick’s biggest goal is to make an impact on his players’ lives.
“The fact that you can have an impact on somebody’s life, not just on the basketball court, is probably the greatest reward you can have as a human being,” Herrick said.
Heading into his 28th season as head coach of the women’s program, Herrick, COC’s women’s basketball coach, has led the Cougars to 16 conference championship titles. Going into his 45th year of coaching overall, he is considered one of the most respected coaches in the U.S.
When Herrick was offered to be the women’s coach at COC, he wasn’t sure about the transition from coaching men’s to women’s basketball. He talked to 10 coaches at various levels and seven of them told him not to.
“They said, ‘Don’t do it because you’ll never get back into men’s. You’ll get stuck in women’s basketball for the rest of your career,’” Herrick said. “They turned out to be right, but I don’t look at it as stuck. For me, coaching is coaching. I coach men the same way I coach women. I establish the same trust and relationship with any player.”
Teaching is one of Herrick’s specialties. He was both a teacher and a coach for 38 years and now puts all of his teaching skills to use on the court.
“I love practice more than the games and people think that’s crazy, but I like to teach,” he said. There is no question in saying that the program’s 27 years of success is evident through Herrick’s influence.
As head coach, Herrick gets a ton of praise for his 16 conference titles. However, as much as he teaches, challenges and develops his team to the maximum, he says that his players are the true reason for the program’s success.
“You win with great players. You may not win everything, but you win consistently,” Herrick said. “I’m not going to sit here and say we won 16 because I’m the coach. That’s a lie. We won 16 because we’ve had great players, and I’ve been fortunate to coach them.”
Herrick brings the best out of his players, helping them reach their highest potential. “Trust is the most important element of a team sport,” he said. “Many players come to me saying, ‘I don’t think I can do it’ and I say ‘I wouldn’t ask you to do it if I didn’t think you can.’” In order to maximize his players’ abilities, Herrick builds trust and a strong bond with the athletes.
One of the captains on the COC women’s basketball team, McKenzie Stoehr, has trust for Herrick like no other, which has contributed to her success so far in helping the team win.
“He knows the potential that I have,” Stoehr said. “He believes in me. When I’m not doing things right, he’ll tell me and doesn’t sugar coat things. I learn to get better not only as a player on the court, but off the court as well.”
Herrick is grateful for every player he’s coached. “They’re the ones who did it,” he said. “I never made a basket. I never shot a free-throw. I never got a rebound. Those wins represent the efforts of the players.”
Although he is often questioned why he’s still coaching, his drive to continue to win is shown through his love for the game. “People always say to me, ‘It’s good that you’re still coaching because it gives you something to do.’ But this isn’t just something to do. This is my passion. It’s professional teaching,” Herrick said. “When the fun’s over, I’m over. As long as I enjoy coming to work, I’ll still do it.”
Aside from winning games, Herrick’s ultimate goal is to win a state championship. Every season he tells his players that winning state is the goal. “I think I would be remiss if that wasn’t the goal every year. I would be cheating the players,” he said. “I want them to know that my goal is to win every game, win a state championship and send them off to something good.”
Coach Herrick is currently at 573 wins, anticipating his 600th win. “600 is a milestone,” Herrick said. “It’s hard to do. I mean, nobody gives anybody a plaque for 600 losses.” As a man who loves winning more than anyone, his goals reach far beyond just winning basketball games or championships. He aspires to change lives. “This stuff is more than just putting the ball in the basket,” Herrick said.
It’s always been more than just basketball to Herrick. He says that the greatest reward one can have is having an impact on someone’s life. His passion, his teachings, his trust and the strong bond he builds with his players all contribute to the impact he makes on their lives. 600 wins is a milestone for Herrick, but having an impact on his players’ lives will always be the ultimate milestone in his success.