By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
John Herchek’s reaction was a simple one and a bit of a rhetorical question.
It was his response when he was told that the Waterloo High School basketball court was going to be named in his honor.
John Herchek Court.
Those who know Herchek know that he never started his career as an educator and coach to have a court named after him, but the reality is the “why” part is actually quite easy to understand.
Herchek was hired as the Vikings’ boys basketball head coach in 1979 and became just the school’s third basketball coach at the time, taking over for another legendary coach: Fred Brookover, which the gymnasium is named after.
With back-to-back coaches, the Vikings celebrated close to 50 years of boys basketball excellence.
Now John Herchek Court will sit inside Fred Brookover Gymnasium.
Herchek’s head-coaching career ended in 2012 with 391 wins, six league championships and six Coach of the Year honors. After spending time as an assistant coach at Hiram College and for the Garfield G-Men, Herchek returned to the Vikings’ bench as an assistant for Jason Wise in 2019.
“I have been around the basketball program since I was 7 years old, so coach was Waterloo basketball for as long as I can remember,” Wise said. “I don’t think, as a player, we always understood what he was trying to teach us, but as you get older, you understand the lessons he taught you. It was always more than basketball. He taught us how to be adults. He has always been a staple for the school and community.”
Which is why when the idea to name the court in Herchek’s honor, a local business stepped forward to cover the complete cost of the project that also received community support and board approval.
The project had been in discussion for a little over a year, according to Waterloo athletic director Mike Devies, and it started on June 13 with the court being sanded down.
While some may see it ahead of this date, the school plans to officially and formally unveil John Herchek Court at its Back to School celebration scheduled for Aug. 16.
“We are extremely grateful for the generous donation to complete this project,” Waterloo facilities and operations director Barb Rach said. “It definitely would not have happened otherwise.”
It was not until the project was already planned and approved that Herchek finally found out about it.
“Knowing him, I wasn’t sure how he would react,” Wise said. “His response when I told him was, ‘Why’?”
Devies, who became the athletic director at Waterloo in 2014, has a shorter history with Herchek, but it has not changed his opinion on Herchek’s impact on the school and community.
“Coach Herchek is a Viking through and through,” Devies said. “I watch him take care of kids, teach them the game of basketball, teach them about life, toughness and being a good human being. His competitive nature is so good for our kids. He loves our school and our community, and he is so very deserving of this honor.
“The stories about Coach Herchek are endless around here,” Devies added. “From my point of view, though, I have seen Coach Herchek nature young men into being great teammates. As an assistant, he is patient, calculated and very rarely will you ever see him miss a teachable moment on the bench.”
Congratulations John! I have been a fan of yours and your long career since the beginning! I was a good friend of Freddie Brookover and saw the last three years of his career and then you took over ! congratulations my friend! A long and storied career!