The Oak Bay Breakers had easily dispatched the Maple Ridge Ramblers in a Christmas Tournament, but coach Rob Kinnear knew there would be no easy win in Saturday’s rematch at the bronze medal game at the provincial tournament.
“We beat them handily then, but we knew they were getting better by the week,” he said, and gave the credit to his rival bench boss, calling the Ridge coach “a legend.”
“We knew they would be prepared and they would be ready – any team coached by Don Herman would,” he said.
“And, I don’t think there’s a more well-liked coach in girls basketball.”
Word has spread that Herman is leaving the senior girls coaching ranks next season, and people are reflecting on the mark he has made. He has been the senior girls coach at MRSS since 1995, and gets the team into the provincial tournament most years, winning the championship in 2007. He also has three Fraser Valley championships, including this year’s.
“He’s the best coach in the province, bar none – in terms of Xs and Ox, and the way he is with the kids,” says his assistant Sacha Page.
He is always positive, never points the finger of blame, and doesn’t use the referees as a scapegoat.
“He’s an example for the girls.”
His star player, Kolbie Orum appreciates the dedication of the guy they call “Herm.”.
“He’s a good guy, and he’s always there for you,” she said. “And he’s gone through championships, and he’s experienced.”
“He’s the one who got us here – practising every day,” added Jane Grisley.
He universally regarded as a nice guy, but the players say he is also relentless in driving to improve.
They recall playing a really hard game earlier that took them into the evening, and afterward being told that they had a 7 a.m. practice. And then “Herm” telling his disbelieving, slackjawed players a second time: “No, seriously, 7 a.m. practice. You better be there.”
Players don’t always consider that coaches like to sleep in too, and Herman will be doing more of that next year.
He and Sacha will take on the Grade 8 team at Ridge next year, switching jobs with current Grade 8 coach Dave Semper.
Coaching Grade 8 brings few expectations, fewer nights given to games and practices, and game times that are right after school – meaning he can be home by dinner time most night.
Herman said it’s a good time to exit, because he will leave Semper with a strong returning team. It will likely be led by the six-foot-three post Grisley, point guard Kate Head and Gabby Cousins, who was the team’s second leading scorer before injury ended her season.
Will he miss senior ball?
“Huge!” he says. “It’s kind of what I do.”
It was an emotional provincials for him, looking up in the crowd to see four alumni from the 2007 championship team there to cheer on their alma mater, and parents of kids he coached almost 20 years ago in the crowd.
“I’ve had the opportunity over the years to work with so many good people,” he said. “The relationships last a lifetime.”
One day, he and Sacha might find a group of Grade 8s that they want to bring all the way through senior ball, and see how far they could take them.
“I’m not saying never,” said Herman. “But it’s time to take a break.”