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COC's Coach Herrick is Gunning for a State Title
January, 2013 - Issue #99
Is it the system, the partner or the personality? It's all of them. It's what makes College of the Canyons women's basketball coach Greg Herrick, now in his 21st season at the helm of the Cougars, one of the Santa Clarita Valley's most successful and significant coaches.

"I went to Canyon. I know the great football tradition there. I know the football odds tradition at Hart. No matter what the turnover has been, they found a way to win under [coaches] Harry [Welch] or [Mike] Herrington. And Dave Munroe [at Hart girls basketball]. In my opinion, Greg's in the top five [of great SCV coaches]. How could he not be?" says Terra Palmer, who played for Herrick at COC, coached with him there and now runs his system as the Hart girls basketball coach.
This marks a significant period in Herrick's life. He comes into the 2012-13 basketball season with 461 victories - striking distance to a magical number of 500. He turned 60 years old this year. And he is retiring after nearly 35 years teaching in the William S. Hart Union High School District. (He currently teaches at Academy of the Canyons.).

Yet Herrick coaches a program that mostly flies under the radar. Though girls' and women's basketball has been one of the most successful sports at the high school and college levels in the SCV, there aren't hoards of people at the games. Yet its importance can't be ignored.

What Herrick has done at COC is evidence. The Cougars have won 14 Western Conference championships in his 20 previous seasons and have won conference games at an .897 clip. Much of the credit goes to a fast-break offense that one could equate to a basketball stampede. COC regularly pushes the 100-point mark every game and in 1997, when the team was a state finalist, the Cougars averaged a California community college record 95.7 points per game.

"When you think of that sport, you think of the top 10 or maybe even top eight colleges in the state that, year in and year out, are knocking on the door. He always puts us in the top 10, top eight," says COC Dean of Athletics Len Mohney of Herrick. "He does it right. He works hard. His kids move on [to four-year colleges]."

Herrick frequently uses "we" when referring to his success. He alludes to his coaching staff, and particularly to Harlan Perlman, who has been his top assistant for 21 years at COC. Perlman recruits the kids and does a lot of the dirty work, allowing Herrick to go out there and coach. "We pride ourselves on the fact that we've won 70 percent of the games I've coached, but it takes a lot of people to get that done," Herrick says. "It's not just me." Mohney captures Perlman's value and Herrick's personality in one statement. "I'll say something to Greg and Greg will say, 'You should probably just tell Harlan,'" Mohney says.

Herrick has a dual personality. Go to a COC game and you'll see him with a disgusted look on his face, regardless of the score. But once in a while you'll catch a glimpse of his other side. One time, he asked a referee if he could get a technical foul for what he thought. The befuddled referee said no. Herrick then told the referee that he thought his officiating was garbage. Herrick got a technical foul. And here's another one. "A [newspaper photographer] was taking a picture of me at COC and I was getting a little self-conscious at the guy sitting there looking at me. So I asked him, 'What are you doing?'" Herrick recalls. "He said, 'I have to take your picture.' I said, 'Well hurry up. You're making me self-conscious here. I can't pick my nose. I can't do anything.'" Later, Herrick put his fingers over his nose at a call from a referee. That photo made the next day's paper.

But for all their success, COC has never won a state title in women's basketball. There have been close to 500 wins, five appearances in the state tournament, tens of thousands of points and more than 30 girls who have moved on to play for four-year universities. That's quite a legacy. "COC is considered one of the top 10 teams in California, but we've never won one. I don't want to be that guy who's never won [the big one]," Herrick says. "One of these days, we'll get one."
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