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story.lead_photo.caption New Searcy Lions basketball coach Wayne Herren gives instructions to his team during a recent practice. Also pictured are Braden Watson, No. 10; Owenn Marino, No. 15; and Ethan Elsberry, No. 14. - Photo by Staci Vandagriff

— After two years away from the game of basketball, Wayne Herren knew he missed coaching.

Herren resigned as Rogers High School boys basketball coach following the 2016-17 season and taught there for two years before reviving his coaching career this season as the new coach of the Searcy Lions.

“It’s just something that is in your blood,” Herren said. “I missed it. I wasn’t ready to be done. I wanted to leave on different terms when it’s time for me to be done.”

During Herren’s last season at Rogers, the Mounties finished 7-20 and 0-14 in 7A-West play. He coached the Mounties to one state tournament appearance in his five years as head coach.

Herren replaces John White, who is now the Searcy Junior Lions basketball coach.

“When I saw this opportunity, I knew there were some challenges coming in,” Herren said. “One of my best friends in coaching is former Searcy coach Roger Franks. I coached in the same conference with Searcy for four years. I saw some of the teams he’s had in the past. It kind of intrigued me.

“I wanted to get back into coaching.”

Herren was hired in late May to coach the Lions, who have not made postseason play since the 2013-14 season.

“At first, it was like, do I remember how to do this?” Herren said of coaching again. “As the last part of the summer flew by and school started, I actually enjoyed practice. I enjoy it more now than I did before. In some sort of way, I always enjoyed practice, but I missed it really bad.”

Getting back on the court has also reconnected Herren with fellow coaches, which is something he said he missed.

“I went to the coaching clinic [two weeks ago] and saw some guys that I hadn’t seen in a while,” Herren said, referring to the Arkansas High School Basketball Coaches Association Clinic in Conway. “I missed the camaraderie, just talking and exchanging ideas. Those things, I missed them terribly. It’s really cool to be back coaching again.”

Herren is originally from Paragould. He graduated from Crowley’s Ridge Academy in 1986.

“The really cool thing for me is my mom is only an hour and a half away,” he said. “Another thing that interested me was being able to coach in another part of the state that I’ve never been able to coach in.”

Herren said he played against Greene County Tech and Paragould when he was in high school.

“Now it’s going to be really good to get to experience coaching against those schools and coach a couple of games in my hometown,” he said.

The Lions are members of the 5A-East Conference with Greene County Tech, Jonesboro, Marion, Mountain Home, Nettleton, Paragould and West Memphis.

“It’s a different kind of basketball in the 5A-East,” Herren said. “Great athletes, good coaches, great atmospheres — I’m looking forward to that.”

Searcy Superintendent Diane Barrett said she’s proud to have Herren as the boys basketball coach.

“We feel fortunate to have Coach Herren as part of our staff,” Barrett said. “He knows how to elicit the best from student athletes, both on and off the court. We look forward to his building and leading a successful program at Searcy High School.”

After graduating from Crowley’s Ridge, Herren played one year of basketball at Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge. He transferred to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, where he met his eventual wife, Kym. She was transferring to the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and he followed her there, graduating with a business degree in 1991.

“It was one of the smarter decisions I ever made,” Herren said. “I met my wife. If I had let her go to UCA and I had stayed at ASU, I may not have been married for the past 23 years.”

Herren said he wanted to be in pharmaceutical sales.

“I had various jobs in sales. … I sold copiers for a while,” he said. “I got an opportunity to work for SF Services, which deals in farming services. I got a call from a friend who worked for them, and they had a buying position open. I did that for almost four years; then our company was bought out by another in Kansas City.

“I could have relocated to Kansas City, or I could take severance and part ways. I did that.”

That led Herren to go back to college and get his teaching certification at UCA.

Herren said he knew that most first-year coaches might have to coach football, especially at a smaller school. So during the 1998-99 school year, he volunteered in the fall for the North Little Rock High School football team. He did his student teaching at North Little Rock under assistant baseball coach Randy Sandefur. Herren was a volunteer assistant for the North Little Rock baseball team in the spring.

“I tried to familiarize myself with everything,” Herren said. “It was a good experience.”

Herren’s first coaching job was an assistant basketball spot at Sylvan Hills Junior High School. After one year there, he became junior high boys basketball coach at Oak Grove High School for two years. While there, Herren coached Darren McFadden, who would go on to become a two-time All-American football player for the Arkansas Razorbacks.

“I still have a relationship with him today,” Herren said.

After two years at Oak Grove, Herren was hired as assistant boys basketball coach under Jerry Wilson at Jacksonville High School.

“I went there for three years,” Herren said. “It was pretty cool for me. While Jerry was in football, I got to run the offseason basketball program. It gave me an opportunity to work with some really good guys.”

When Wilson became athletic director for the school, Herren thought he might have a chance to replace Wilson as head basketball coach, but the Pulaski County Special School District hired North Pulaski coach Victor Joyner.

“He was nice and wanted me to stay to be an assistant,” Herren said of Joyner, “but I taught another year at Jacksonville and volunteer-coached at Sylvan Hills with Kevin Davis. We had a great year.”

That led to an opportunity for Herren to go back to Oak Grove for the 2006-07 school year.

“Coach [Bill] McDonald had called me. … We never got to finish the conversation,” Herren said. “He was going to do one more year. He had an assistant’s job open.”

Herren said McDonald was scheduled for hernia surgery, but he had a stroke and died several weeks later.

“The principal called me and asked if I’d be interested in coming in on an interim basis,” Herren said. “I said, ‘Absolutely.’”

The Hornets had gone 1-15 in conference play the year before. As interim coach, Herren led Oak Grove to a second-place finish and a berth in the state tournament.

“I felt pretty good about what we had accomplished,” he said. “They rewarded me and made me the head coach.”

Herren was head coach at Oak Grove for five years. When Maumelle High School was completed for the 2011-12 school year, replacing Oak Grove, Herren coached one more year before taking the job at Rogers High School.

While at Oak Grove, Herren said, he applied for several jobs in Northwest Arkansas, which he thought would be a great place for his family.

“The job at Rogers came open, and I applied,” he said. “They offered me the job the same day I interviewed. On the way home, they called me. I told them I needed a weekend to think about it, but I really didn’t.”

Rogers made one state tournament during Herren’s tenure. The Mounties lost to West Memphis in the first round of the Class 7A state tournament in 2013 by a score of 58-55.

Herren said his new team has been focusing on defense so far in practice.

“The first thing we’re concentrating on is getting better defensively,” he said. “That was one of the weaknesses of the team last year.”

Searcy allowed 64 points per game while averaging 61 points per game.

“We want to get better defensively, starting with our younger kids, all the way up through our high school kids,” Herren said. “We put a really big emphasis on fundamentals and defense.”

Herren said his team looks to qualify for the state tournament.

“The goal for us this year is to try to make it to the state tournament,” he said. “We’re not setting any lofty goals, like we’re going to win the conference championship or anything like that. It’s something that I think is achievable.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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