Herrington had surgery last week; brother Mike is in charge of Hart football for now
Hart football head coach Rick Herrington is recovering well and should be home on Wednesday following heart transplant surgery at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center last week, he said.
“He gets stronger and stronger each day,” his brother, Dean, said in a phone interview with The Signal. “It’s great news that he gets to go home in the next day or two.”
Dean is a former offensive coordinator at Hart High School during his brother Mike’s reign of the program and is currently the head coach at St. Francis High School in La Cañada. Mike, who retired in December of 2019, has taken charge of the program in Rick’s absence, Dean said.
Rick, 63, has been at UCLA Medical Center since Feb. 27 after feeling chest pains at a booster club meeting. According to Rick, doctors said that one of the sutures in his heart was leaking following triple bypass surgery in November.
“Everything was great,” Dean said. “I mean, he was doing everything that he did before. He was coaching, golfing, just doing whatever.”
Both Mike and Dean have been visiting Rick at the hospital, alternating days to keep him company. Dean credits Rick’s children, Todd and Kasey, for “holding the fort down at home.”
“They’ve just been strong and they’ve been great, you know, being there for Rick,” Dean said. “I can’t say enough words about how awesome those two have been.”
The staff at UCLA Medical Center has been “unbelievable,” Rick said in a phone interview with The Signal.
“All the nurses just go out of their way to help you,” Rick said. “I mean, that part’s been a pleasure. They just do a great job down here. I’ll miss a lot of people here that I’ve met, I’ve met a million nurses, so I’ll miss that a little bit, but I won’t miss it enough to get home.”
Rick, who has become known as “coach” by the staff at UCLA Medical Center, has been able to watch some of the UCLA football practices from his hospital room.
“I can watch from afar, but I’m still trying to find some binoculars, because it’s still a little bit far away for me,” Rick said. “It gave me something to do.”
Once Rick does come home, he’ll still have a recovery period to get back to full health. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be keeping tabs on his football team, waiting for the day that he can be out on the field with his players.
“No telling when he’ll be out there, but, you know, they’ll be filming all the practices and everything and he’ll be able to watch practices and be able to coach that way,” Dean said. “And then I’m sure, gradually, he’ll get to go to on the field, and there’s no doubt in my mind that come the season, at some time during the season, he’ll be on the sidelines.”
Rick said that while he will miss spring practices and parts of summer, he is planning to be coaching in a normal capacity in the fall for the regular season. For now, though, he has full confidence in Mike, who has led the Indians to multiple CIF titles as the head coach, to helm the program during his absence.
“I’m sure I’ll be limited in some stuff I can do, but Mike’s doing a good job taking over for me,” Rick said. “I think he’s used to it. So, that really helps out a lot when he’s around.”
The next step for Rick is getting back on the golf course, which could be sooner than later.
“The doctor told Rick he’ll be swinging a golf club in eight weeks,” Dean said.
“I’m looking forward to that a lot,” Rick said.
And if everything continues to go well with his “nice, young” heart, Rick said that he could live another 30 to 40 years.
“I could live to about 103,” Rick said. “I’m hoping that’s true.”