Rick Herrington said that his goal was to keep coaching until he wasn’t excited about going to practice every day.
That time, he said, has come.
After 46 years of coaching, 38 of them at Hart High and the last four as head coach, the 1978 Hart alumnus is officially retired as of Wednesday, he confirmed to The Signal in a phone interview. Herrington had previously retired as a special education teacher at Hart two years ago.
“I told myself if I ever start work dreading going to practice, just going out there and not quite as excited as I’d always been, then I said, ‘That’s time to quit. It’s time. You’re done,’” Herrington said.
Herrington had a heart transplant in April but didn’t miss a game this past season. He said that the extra time off should help him get back to peak health.
“With all the medical problems I had, it made it harder,” Herrington said. “So, I just need to let my body rest and get in better shape now, make sure the heart’s still ticking after a few more years.”
Mike Herrington, Rick’s brother and the head coach at Hart from 1989 to 2019, is also stepping down after helping out as an assistant coach for the past few years, Rick said.
Rick told his team on Wednesday that he would be stepping down.
“It was pretty silent in there today,” Rick said. “They all came up to congratulate me afterwards. So, it was really nice.”
An offensive and defensive lineman in his high school days, Rick said that there’s been at least one Herrington at Hart, coaching or playing, since 1975 except for the 1988 season when the Herrington brothers — Rick, Mike and Dean — coached together at Bellflower High School. Mike had sought the head coach job at Hart but didn’t get it, and when the job opened back up the next year, the three of them jumped at the chance to lead their alma mater.
Rick said that it was “tough” to leave the Bellflower program and the players after just one season, but it was an opportunity that the three of them just couldn’t pass up.
“We got a chance to coach at our alma mater, and we weren’t gonna give that up,” Rick said. “We just hoped they all understood, and most of them did.”
Rick doesn’t have many plans for his future — except for golf. He said he’s already been out on a course at least five times since the Indians saw their season end earlier this month and is hoping one day to play the TPC Sawgrass course in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, a dream course of his.
“I’m gonna go back to what I want to do and play golf for three or four times a week and just relax for a while,” Rick said.
And if he gets the itch to coach again, he may even help coach Dean’s grandson’s Pop Warner team in the South Bay. But he isn’t looking for any head coaching jobs. That time of his life, he said, has sailed.
Rick still plans to attend Hart games and, if asked, will help whoever the new coach is get started. But nothing beyond that.
“I’m sure I’ll go to a lot of games,” Rick said. “I’ll sit over in the corner by the end zone and second-guess the new coach. They’ve all been able to second-guess me over the years, so now it’s my turn.”
The new coach should be able to hit the ground running, Rick thinks. He said with an undefeated junior varsity team from this past season and a group of juniors to lead the team next year as seniors, the Indians will be in a fine position to contend in the Foothill League and the Southern Section.
“I think it’s the best time, for a new coach, for me to leave to give him the opportunity to have some good players to start with,” Rick said. “I always wanted to make sure that was happening.”
Of all those years that he was coaching at Hart, Rick said that he’ll remember the CIF championships the most. The Indians have won nine titles overall and picked up four straight from 1998 to 2001.
The first title with Mike as the head coach came in 1995, and it holds a special place in Rick’s heart because, as he said, it was a game against Antelope Valley that “they weren’t supposed to win.”
And above all else, Rick thanked the Hart community and the Santa Clarita Valley football community as a whole.
“The community has always been good,” Rick said. “It always helps dealing with people if you have a successful program. It makes it a lot easier. And so I appreciate all the parents and all they’ve done for me and the Quarterback Club, especially, what they’ve done for us over the years. So, it’s been a lot of fun.”