Former SIU coach excels at small college

By Sean Phee, @SeanPheeDE

After more than 50 years of coaching basketball and 900 wins at the high school and college levels combined, former Saluki basketball coach Rich Herrin said he still has fun coaching every night.

Herrin retired from coaching in 2007,  but decided to come out of retirement in 2012 and become the first basketball coach for the Patriots of Morthland College, a small Christian college in West Frankfort that opened in 2011.

Herrin is 81 years old and has been coaching more than half of his life.

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Morthland’s initial enrollment was only forty students, but it has continued to grow every year; so has the basketball team’s success.

After having only seven wins during his first season, Herrin quickly made Morthland a force to be reckoned with. The team posted a 17-9 record last season in the program’s second year of existence.

Herrin said Morthland has continued its success this season and has earned a reputation as a high scoring team by emphasizing a fast-paced less restrictive offense.

“We average 81 points a game,” Herrin said. “I just let the team play.”

Before Morthland, Herrin coached the Salukis from 1985 to 1998. He coached them to three straight NCAA tournaments from 1993 to 1995 and four appearances in the National Invitation Tournament.

Herrin said winning the three Missouri Valley Conference championships to get into the NCAA tournament were his greatest memories at SIU.

Before his time in Carbondale, Herrin was a successful high school coach at Okawville High School and Benton High School. At Benton he coached former NBA All-Star and coach, Doug Collins.

Other former NBA players coached by Herrin include former Salukis Chris Carr, who played for eight years, and Troy Hudson, who played for 10 years.

“I’ve had outstanding individuals as players, so I’ve been very lucky as a coach,” Herrin said.

Morthland shooting guard Dylan Burmester said luck has nothing to do with Herrin’s success.

“Being coached by Rich Herrin is a great privilege,” he said. “I believe that he can make anybody who loves the game a better player on and off the court.”

Herrin’s players said he emphasizes education above all else.

Junior shooting guard Matt Weeks said Herrin is crazy about basketball, but teaches his players about life as well.

“It is more about succeeding in life with him and not just in basketball,” Weeks said.

A West Frankfort native, Matt Weeks is not only a player, but also an assistant coach. He said he could not pass up an opportunity to coach with Herrin, whom he considers to be a coaching legend.

“I felt like this was a huge opportunity for our town and the area,” Weeks said. “Rich Herrin being a part of anything makes me want to be a part of it.”

Morthland has a 9-7 record this season and plays Friday at the St. Louis Concordia Shootout.

Sean Phee can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3311 ext. 269

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