By Tom Nader
Publisher and Editor
John Herchek’s memorable legacy at Waterloo High School never needed his name on a basketball court to be reminded of his impact.
But the legendary Hall of Fame coach now has that, too.
Waterloo High School proudly dedicated John Herchek Court on Wednesday night as part of the district’s Back to School Bash.
It was a special ceremony in front of Herchek’s family, closest friends, former players, community members and even opposing coaches, including retired Windham High School boys basketball coach Marty Hill and his staff of Greg Cowan, Dave Apthorpe, Don Ridenbaugh and Bub Ridenbaugh.
While it was one of Herchek’s former players — and current Waterloo boys basketball head coach — Jason Wise, that formally introduced John Herchek Court in a special court dedication ceremony that was part of a gymnasium project that included a complete court redesign.
According to Wise, it was the third time in the gym’s history that it had been redone.
The floor was sanded down and the process to redesign it began.
So did the momentum to name the court after Herchek, who was the Vikings’ head coach from 1979-2012 and amassed 391 wins, six league championships and won six Coach of the Year awards.
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 Wise and has been in that role since 2019.
During Wednesday’s unveiling, the community was invited in to see the new floor design and maroon paper was placed over two spots near the sideline of each half.
After Waterloo athletic director Mike Devies welcomed the community, Wise called Herchek and his wife Pam to the court, then began the court dedication with a story about his first memory of Waterloo basketball as a 6 year old.
“Coach Herchek was basketball to me,” Wise said.
Shortly after, Wise called down Herchek’s family members, including his daughter Bethey and brother Andy, as well as former assistant coaches of Herchek’s down the court to pull the maroon paper off the court to show the script reading “John Herchek Court.”
A “humbled and honored” Herchek then gave an acceptance speech.
“I don’t know what to say. They told me I was not going to have to talk, so I don’t have a speech prepared, but I will say that there are a lot of people whose names should be on this court instead of mine.”
Herchek praised all of his former players, coaching staffs and community members that have supported him throughout this 45-year career.
“I think I am most honored that my name is with Fred Brookover’s name,” Herchek said.
The gymnasium had been previously named in honor of Brookover, who was Herchek’s predecessor and also authored a run of tremendous success for the Vikings’ boys basketball program.
A large banner now hangs over the stage-end of the gymnasium that reads: “FRED BROOKOVER GYMNASIUM AND JOHN HERCHEK COURT.”
Overall, the project cost approximately $40,000 and had been in discussion for a little over a year. The work officially began on June 13.
Sarchione Chevrolet stepped forward to cover the complete cost of the project that also received community support and board approval. Sarchione’s branding is also featured as part of the new court design, with its name across the out-of-bounds framing, along with Chevrolet floor decals on each side of the court.
“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.”
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.”