By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some coaches change lives because their passion shines through. Hill-Murray’s Erin Herman paused this winter to accept some recognition for a milestone.

“I love this. I love the whole process of coaching. I love scouting. I like the planning, I like the strategizing. I like practice. I just love the game,” Herman said.

It’s a journey that started 40 years ago in a place far away — North Dakota.

“My first team was when I was 18 years old, the winter of 1980 I had a 7th grade basketball team in East Grand Forks, Minnesota when I was going to school at the University of North Dakota,” she said.

After 31 years at Hill Murray, and seven state tournament teams, this year saw a new benchmark, with her 500th career win.

Former players and the Hill Murray community came out to show their support. She has done it with a tough love that resonates.

“She can be scary sometimes, when she’s yelling at you. That’s her big thing,” Hill-Murray forward Lily Mackley said. “Everyone’s like, ‘Oh, aren’t you scared to play for her? She seems like such a scary lady.’ No, on the court she’s like that but when you talk to her and are having one-on-ones, she’s such a sweetheart. She’s just so nice.”

That’s what you hear when you visit these parts, not about the wins, but about the person.

“She’s so passionate and so hard working and dedicated to what she does, and if she’s going to do something she does it with her all,” player Ella Sutherland reports.

And that comes from the most influential person in her life: her father.

“He helped me along the way so much, and I still miss him so much, but he inspired me to be a coach and to work with kids,” Herman said.

What makes her status more fascinating is that she is not a teacher. She’s the principal, a rare combination these days.

“It’s really interesting having my principal be my basketball coach, because it’s such a huge connection in my school life and in my playing life,” Katherine McGrath said.

Her life has become intertwined with the lives of the students and athletes she serves.

“If somebody needs to cover a meeting for me, they do. It’s hard, it’s long days, long hours, but the payoff is still really positive,” Herman said.

When you do this for this long, you begin to build a reputation. And when that reputation is that she will invest in you, it becomes contagious.

She chooses to find ways to set a standard, and she chooses to believe in her players.

“She has always believed in me, and taught me that I can believe in myself too, and I can do anything I put my mind do,” McGrath said.

And when that happens, you have special nights where they come back to honor you for what you have meant, for what you have done in achieving 500 wins.

That number — 500 — does not mean as much as another number.

“I think the biggest number for me is 214. That’s how many varsity kids I’ve had at Hill-Murray, and every one of them has given me a lot,” Herman said.

Mike Max