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COC women's hoops coach Greg Herrick: The map to a milestone

With 400 wins and counting, Herrick has turned COC women’s hoops into an elite program

Posted: December 16, 2009 10:12 p.m.
Updated: December 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

COC women's basketball head coach Greg Herrick has compiled a 400-158 record since coming to the program from Hart High School 18 years ago.

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It has been 18 years, but College of the Canyons head women’s basketball coach Greg Herrick still remembers his first game on the Cougars’ sideline.

“We were playing Allan Hancock,” he says. “They were one of the top teams that year. We got beat by 40. It was the worst loss we’ve ever had.”

Herrick paused for a second.

“In my life,” he adds.

But 400 wins later, Herrick’s love of the sport and passion for consistency has turned COC into a perennial contender.

On Saturday, the Cougars surprised even their head coach by beating the state’s No. 4 team, Mt. San Antonio College, for the first time since 2002, giving Herrick his landmark 400th victory.

“When I look back on this I’ll say, ‘Yeah we won (No.) 400 with that team,’” he says. “I always tell the kids that. ‘Do you want to be history, or do you want to make history?’ And they made a little history.”

The victory brought his coaching record with the Cougars to 400-158, including nine Western State Conference titles and six WSC Coach of the Year awards.

His overall career record is 578-237 spanning 29 years.

Herrick spent six season at Cleveland High School of Reseda, taking the team to the playoffs each year.

In 1987, he took over the boys basketball program at Hart High, where he won Foothill League titles during the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons.

The next year, Herrick was hired by the Cougars.

“I remember the 200 wins, the 300,” he says. “I have some balls in my office the kids signed to commemorate those events. I just ordered one for this game, one of those autograph balls. We are going to put 400 on it and put it in the trophy case. It’s not about me. I’ve been very fortunate to coach great talent, for the most part, my whole career. It’s been a wonderful ride.”

One of Herrick’s assistant coaches is Harlan Perlman.

The two have worked together for 23 years, dating back to their time at Hart.

That coaching consistency has also played a role in the program’s success, Herrick says.

“People say to me all the time, ‘Don’t you want to have your own program?’” Perlman says. “And I say, ‘And not be with coach Herrick everyday? What fun would that be?’ I never want to not coach with him. We have a good time every day.”

According to Perlman, the key to Herrick’s success starts with his love for the game.

“He says to us all the time, ‘We work too hard not to have a good time,” Perlman says. “We have to have a good time. Otherwise it’s just work.”

That sentiment also applies to the court.

“We have fun here on and off the floor,” Perlman says. “Our style of play is fun. I wish I could have played in a system like this, where it’s open and you get to create and make decisions in transition.”

One player who has thrived in Herrick’s system is sophomore forward Ashley Wakefield, the team’s lone returning starter from last season.

Against Mt. SAC, the All-WSC player had 18 points and 14 rebounds.

On the season, Wakefield is averaging a team-high 18.6 points to go along with 11.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and three steals.

“It was a great win for us,” she says. “It was mostly because we worked together as a team. We had a stronger bond than we usually have. As long as we work together and put in hard work, things like that can happen.”

Her words are testament to Herrick’s philosophy, one that relies on team chemistry.

But that philosophy also relies on conditioning.

“Our goal is to be the highest-scoring team in the state,” he says. “As a matter of fact, if there is a seven-second shot clock, we’d be good with that. That’s our philosophy — playing fast, playing an exciting brand of basketball, getting everybody involved, playing more players than other schools because we have to.”

Herrick said he has lived in Valencia since 1978 and plans to do so for the foreseeable future.

In fact, according to Herrick, other coaches have used rumors of his departure to try to steal recruits away.

Herrick doesn’t deny that he would have entertained a move to NCAA Division I.

“I did have aspirations like every young coach,” he says. “I would sit at the Final Four, which I still attend every year — the men’s Final Four — and I’ll sit in the stands and watch the Krzyzewskis and the guys coaching. I sit and say to myself, ‘I just never got an opportunity to do that.’ You can never lose the confidence that you are capable of doing this at any other level. But it wasn’t meant to be. God’s plan was for me to be here, and that’s why I’m here.”

And ultimately, that is just fine with Herrick.

It’s also fine with COC.

“My goal is to win the state championship and I will not stop until that’s what we do,” he says.


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