Family, friends remember Rich Herrin at Celebration Of Life

In the house that has his name on the outside wall, some 200 of his closest family and friends gathered Saturday afternoon in a celebration of life for longtime southern Illinois coach Rich Herrin.

A handful of guest speakers shared stories in remembrance of Herrin, including Benton high school greats, Doug Collins and Rich Yunkus, as well as, former Southern Illinois University assistant coach Rodney Watson.

Collins was the last of nine guest speakers that included Rich Stein (a college teammate at McKendree), Brad Weathers and Dick Corn (former Benton players) and Mark Hale (friend).

Herrin's youngest daughter, Kristy Allardyce also spoke, while Dave Severin gave the invocation and benediction.

Herrin, who was born April 6, 1933, passed away December 25, 2020 after battling an illness.

"Coach Herrin was a character and we all have coach Herrin stories," Collins said at the closing of Saturday's celebration of life. "I always say: you tell me you're coach Herrin story and I'll tell you mine.

"A lot of people got to stand up today and have a different story, but the story we always got from him was how much he loved basketball and how much he loved his wife, Sue and his family, To the last breath, he was still coaching. He never cared how good you were, he just wanted to teach you and today was a great tribute to an even better man."

Saturday was a time for story telling for a man that transcended the game of basketball at the high school and collegiate level. Beginning in 1960, Herrin spent 25 years at Benton, compiling a record of 521-192, winning 21 regional titles, eight sectionals and advanced to the state quarterfinals five times. Of those state appearances, three came in the single-class format and two came in the two-class system - one in Class A and one in AA.

Herrin then leapfrogged the coaching ranks and went from Benton High School straight to the main chair at Southern Illinois University from 1985-1998, transforming the Salukis into a high-energy program that produced seven-straight trips to the postseason, including three-straight NCAA Tournament appearances from 1993-1195. In 2000, he was inducted into the Saluki Hall of Fame and in 2010, inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Hall of Fame.

Many of his former SIU players were in attendance Saturday, including the likes of Paul Lusk (Purdue assistant), Shane Hawkins (Caterville head coach), Scott Burzynski Johnston City head coach), Wayne Harre (former Nashville head coach), Erik Griffin (Harrisburg assistant) and Rick Shipley.

After SIU, Herrin returned to the prep ranks, coaching at Marion and later started the Morthland College basketball program.

Along the way, Herrin coached his fair share of Hall of Famers, including Collins, who after playing at Illinois State, played for the U.S. Olympic Team in 1972 and played for the Philadelphia 76ers from 1973-1981.

After coaching stops with the Washington Wizards and Detroit Pistons, Collins was named head coach of the Chicago Bulls from 1986-1989, where he coached Michael Jordan.

Collins spoke to the impact Herrin played in his life, not only as a person, but as a professional, adding without coach Herrin, there would be no Doug Collins.

"He molded me, he saw something in me," Collins said. "He motivated and drove me in a very positive way and I fell in love with the game because of Coach and when you love something, you're really not working. I played basketball and tried to respect the game, whether I played, coached or was in broadcast and I got a lot of that from coach Herrin. He was dignified man, who was smart, ahead of his time and I'm so thankful I had a man like that that helped me get to where I am today."

Spyder Dann covers prep and college sports for the Southern Illinois LOCAL Media Group. Follow him on Twitter: @spydieshooter.