Leader Blues

Monday, June 11, 2007

SPORTS>>Former Jacksonville assistant named head coach

By RAY BENTON
Leader sports editor

Former Jacksonville assistant boys basketball coach Wayne Herren is finally and officially a head coach. Herren was officially named head coach of the Oak Grove High School boys basketball team last Friday.

A series of unfortunate events left him out of the running for the Jacksonville job when former head coach Jerry Wilson stepped down at the end of the 2004-’05 school year. After a year as a volunteer assistant at Sylvan Hills, the sudden stroke and eventual death of Herren’s former boss and friend, former Oak Grove head coach Bill McDonald, Herren was brought back to his old school as the interim head coach just before the start of last season.

He led the team to its first state tournament appearance in several years, and after being surplussed by the Pulaski County Special School District, he was finally named head coach.

The term surplussed is a contradictory one. It actually means that because of dropping enrollment numbers at a given school, there is a surplus of teachers.

The person with the shortest tenure at the school is then surplussed, i.e. put on notice that if nothing comes open, they will not have a job at that school.

In the final twist to Herren’s bizarre ride through the ranks of the PCSSD, he didn’t have to interview for the job opening he actually already held because surplussed teachers are placed first when something comes open.

“The whole ordeal has been strange, but I really feel like someone was watching out for me,” Herren said. “I believe this is where God wants me to be, and so many good things have come out of what was a disappointment for me at the time.”
Herren wanted to be the head coach at Jacksonville when Wilson resigned, but now only focuses on the positives that came from not getting the job.

“I was devastated when I didn’t get that job,” Herren said. “I loved those kids. Kids like Will Christian and Eric Hughes are two of the finest kids I’ve ever been around in my life. One of the hardest things I’ve ever done as a coach was sit over there with Sylvan Hills and coach against those kids. But now I can’t help but believe it was all God’s plan. I just couldn’t see it then.” Herren’s list of positives is extensive and impressive.

“I was able to get my master’s degree for one,” Herren said. “I had a great year at Sylvan Hills. We took a 15-12 team to the semifinals of the state tournament. I learned a lot from Kevin (SH coach Kevin Davis) and I gained a friendship there that will last a lifetime. I got to put a year in here with my kids so now that I’m the official head coach, I’m getting a group that already knows my system. Everything just all worked out for the best.”

Herren began his stint in Pulaski County as an assistant junior high coach at Sylvan Hills. After one year, he was named head junior high coach at Oak Grove, where he led the OGJH Hornets through three seasons before moving to Jacksonville High School in 2002.

Herren becomes Wilson’s third assistant to move on to a head coaching position in the county. Davis and Mills coach Tracy Allen also did short stints as assistants at Jacksonville. Last season with Herren as interim coach, Oak Grove averaged 67 points per game while giving up 54 points running a man defense.

“Most of them had hardly ever played man before,” Herren said “My seniors knew a little bit because I had them in my seventh-grade program five years ago.”

Those seniors, and there eight of them, all of which got ample playing time, are now gone, leaving Herren with about 98 percent of his offense to replace.

“It’s going to be tough at first, but there’s some talent here,” Herren said. “We’re losing a lot, but there’s a lot left to work with too. I’ve got a great group of kids. I’ve got a great principal. I’m just happy to be at Oak Grove.”