AS JOHN HERNDON LEANS IN HIS OFFICE CHAIR, A PAIR OF BLACK-FRAME GLASSES NESTLED ON HIS FOREHEAD AND AN ACOUSTIC PLAYLIST SETTING THE BACKGROUND MUSIC, WE TALK BASKETBALL – THE GAME, THE RELATIONSHIPS, THE COACHES, THE MEMORIES AND HOW HE’S DONE IT FOR 37 YEARS.
The coach better known as CH – a nickname he got from his friend Todd Smith during a basketball camp at Rice in the 90s – still walks into the gym at Second Baptist School every morning, putting on his navy blue sweatshirt with an eagle on it and teaching the game.
But to understand CH, you have to go back to where it all began.
THE ROAD TO THE SECOND BAPTIST SCHOOL
After graduating from Washington and Lee University, where CH played for Verne Canfield, he worked at a summer basketball camp for his former coach. This is where his love for coaching was born.
“From day one, I remember the very moment I said, this is what I want to do,” Herndon said. “I like to teach. I like to train. »
Over the years, CH rose through the ranks as a high school, NCAA Division III (Washington and Lee) and Division II (North Dakota State) basketball coach before landing a staff job. of Willis Wilson at Rice University in the late 90s. After his time there, he opened his own gym called “CH Basketball” and did so for 13 years before returning to coaching high school.
But it wasn’t men’s basketball, which he had been doing all his career. Instead, for the first time in his life, he would coach women’s basketball at Second Baptist School.
“I came here and immediately fell in love with coaching young women,” Herndon said of the move four years ago.
AN SBS SUCCESS
Since CH entered Second Baptist School four years ago, all they have done is win. But it took the right ingredients.
“Successfully coaching and teaching basketball takes both sides of the coin,” Herndon said. “You need the coaches and the players. Are they teachable? Can they play instinctively? It’s that neat mix of coaching and receiving coaching. I was lucky to be under the best teachers in the game.”
When CH was in Austria running a defensive clinic, it was Austrian men’s national team coach Friedrich Walz who told him to be a good coach, you can’t become other coaches. You are cake and the things you learn from these coaches are raisins.
“I finally have a cake that has all kinds of raisins in it,” Herndon said. “I apply the things I learned from them, but they are what I was supposed to be. It’s a unique cake that I made. It’s mine.
Second Baptist School players are the beneficiaries of this teaching.
“The way I think of these coaches is the way I want the girls to remember me,” Herndon said. When they become moms at some point, I hope they’ll just remember something they learned from me and apply it to their lives. It would be the greatest fruit of all.
His mixture of knowledge of basketball and life by themes like FLI (Fun, Learn, Improve) and the Three L’s (Laugh a Lot, Love Each Other, Lifelong Memories), they were able to win and win a lot in the Second Baptist School.
They won the district championship for four consecutive seasons. In his freshman year, they went to the TAPPS Final Four. Every season since then, including the 2022 campaign, Second Baptist School has finished as a TAPPS 5A State Finalist.
This success is not easy, but it all starts with conviction and confidence, which is what his team has and is not a stat that a coach can look for.
“I think it’s a good thing for teams, whether it’s college or high school, to have a confident expectation of themselves,” Herndon said. “Where they actually believe in their place. When the girls come in and see [the plaques]they see themselves as champions.
“It’s a first step towards winning a championship. You expect you to belong there. It takes the pressure off you.
With a trio of State Runner-Up plaques attached to the wall, you’d think the obvious next step is to win it all. Sure, that’s what CH wants to do, but at the end of the day, it’s more than winning basketball games for him.
“One of our themes that we live through every week here at Second Baptist School is that we just try to win every day,” Herndon said. “We try to win by being young women growing up, academically, spiritually and socially. Our goal is to achieve excellence in these areas and not just in basketball.
As CH descended into the past on an afternoon in March, he would get up from his chair to point to a picture on the wall and occasionally tell that player’s story.
His corner desk tucked into the gym wall is filled with photos, plaques and a spiraling pile of basketball coaching manuals he’s written.
“[People] come in and the first thing they think is I must like kids,” Herndon said. “I know it well. It’s all about relationships for me.
Starting from a corner of his office, the wall features many basketball game action shots of Rice and even the Chinese junior national team. At the very center of these photos is a canvas print of two Second Baptist School kindergartners grinning from ear to ear.
“I could fill it with all the college players, but I never forget it starts there,” Herndon said, pointing to the photo. “It was the children who watched them play.”
Unlike his old job as a high school coach, where he taught Spanish and geology, at Second Baptist School, CH can interact with small children on a daily basis in his physical education classes. Run in the field with them to encourage them.
“I know I have a ton of gray hair, but they think I’m just one of the kids to play with there,” Herndon said.
When you look around the CH office, it ranges from college players to kindergarteners to his senior Second Baptist School graduates — his wall of fame — all etched in his memory.
“I’m going to blink one day and it’ll all be over, I won’t be coaching anymore,” Herndon said. “But what will live on is in their memories and those of their families.”
ENJOY THE ROAD
As CH enters the offseason and turns 60 this year, the ball coach doesn’t have a set number on how long he’ll make it.
But if you watch him coaching a game, jumping and bouncing off the bench and coaching his team with all his heart, he doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.
“I feel like I have a little juice left in those legs like I could go a little more,” Herndon said. “When I’m on the ground, my engine revs. I have a lot of energy; I have the energy to watch the details, applaud them when things are going well and correct them when things are going badly. I have the energy to train at my highest level.
“As we leave the floor and walk into my office, my pace slows. I am sweet and gentle.
At the end of a practice, that’s where that slower rhythm comes out. He’ll gather the team to talk about the day’s work and finally ask, “Why is this the most important thing happening on the planet?” »
Their response each time – “Because it concerns us.”
“Although it’s 5A women’s basketball at a private school and a lot of people say it doesn’t rank as high as Division I men’s basketball, I say yes because it involves your lovely girls,” Herndon said. “It’s an honor and a precious gift to be able to impact lives at this age.”
As he enters the twilight of his career, CH admits he takes nothing without appreciating it more and celebrating every accomplishment, however small of them. And he’s not afraid to tell his players every day that he loves them.
“They learn early on that I love them very much,” he said. “I have to define this word love. Love for me cares intensely about their well-being. They feel as free to tell me they love me as I tell them I love them. We love each other, so they will allow me to push them.
And this culture of love is one that is fostered daily within the walls of Second Baptist School by teachers, coaches, and staff and passed on to the children. In a caring community centered on Jesus Christ, coaches love because they were first loved by God. Through student mentorship, it goes beyond character but instilling a love for God and a biblical worldview.
“When you walk into our campus, you come to a place where people are kind to each other,” Herndon said. “We all love each other… This is a special place.”