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400 Winning Games and Counting
A Conversation with COC's Women's Basketball Coach Greg Herrick
March, 2010 - Issue #65
Greg Herrick has a good thing going. He knows it. He loves it.

Earlier this season the College of the Canyons women's basketball coach won his 400th game with the Cougars. Nine times along the way he's won Western State Conference Championships. Eight times his teams have produced the highest scoring in California.

Even this year, in what he says he expected to be a rebuilding season, Herrick has a team with a chance to help him, in his 18th season at COC, claim his first state championship.

Things are great for the coach. They have been great for a while now.

So why is it he can't help but wonder how things might have turned out differently?

"When I was offered the job at COC, people told me not to take it," Herrick says. "They warned me, once you become a women's coach, you're labeled that way. There's no going back. Of course, just like I don't listen to people now, I didn't listen to people then, either. I thought, 'I'm a good coach. Let's see what happens. [Former COC men's coach] Lee Smelser is going to retire soon and when he does, I can switch to the men's team.'"

Howard Fisher, not Herrick, was given the men's job when it became available.

In the years since, Herrick has interviewed for other men's head coaching jobs. At one NCAA Division I basketball program, Herrick says he was told they would love to hire him as their next head coach - if only he was a men's coach and not a women's coach.

"It turns out those people were right," Herrick says with a laugh. "When I was a high school coach, I couldn't get a college coaching job because I didn't have college experience. Now I'm coaching in college, I can't get a men's coaching job because I don't have men's experience. It used to frustrate me a lot. It was a long-time professional dream of mine. But right now, how it's all turned out, I'm happy with the job I have."

His professional dream rendered impossible, he's now embracing a new one.

There was a time when Herrick didn't even want to be a coach.

"I played basketball for a lot of different coaches," says the 29-year coaching veteran. "I never wanted to have players dislike me the way those coaches were disliked by players. I didn't want people to look at me the way I saw a lot of people looking at their coaches."

Ultimately, though, he couldn't resist. Law school was boring.

Herrick landed his first job for the freshman boys basketball team at Crespi High School. It was there that the coach started to develop his unique high tempo offensive brand of basketball.

Herrick calls himself the grandfather of fast break basketball. He jokes he'd like to switch to seven-second shot clocks. His aim for every game is for his team to attempt 100 shots.

This affinity for creative ways to fill the scoreboard started at Crespi.

"The varsity coach had a system that was very methodical," Herrick says. "Even then I had trouble doing what I was told. When we were in the same gym as the varsity coach, we'd run his offense. When the coach wasn't around, we'd use the one I came up with."

Herrick's first opportunity to run his own program came soon after.

At age 25, Herrick was hired as the head varsity boys coach at Cleveland High. In six seasons, his teams producing three NBA draft picks and two City Section championships.

He traveled the country, learning from the nation's top offensive minds.

"I went all over the place, all over the country speaking with Jerry Tarkanian, Paul Westhead, Sonny Allen, some of the pioneers in fast break basketball," Herrick says.

His hard work still wasn't enough to get the promotion he wanted.

Frustrated by his inability to move up in his profession, he quit. Convinced he'd have better opportunities for advancement in the business world, he tried switching careers.

He couldn't stay away for long.

"I'm like a drug addict," Herrick says. "I was sitting at home watching Oprah Winfrey when where I really wanted to be was in the gym. I realized this is what I do."

Herrick accepted an assistant position under Smelser at COC. Then in 1987, he became the head boys coach at Hart High, leading the Indians to league titles in 1991 and 1992.

After his fifth season, Herrick was offered the COC women's coaching job.

He thought it would be a stepping-stone. It's become much more than that.

"We've been able to do what we want to do, which is be one of the top 10 programs in the state," Herrick says. "We've had a lot of great teams. I'm happy with where I'm at."
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