The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

April 30, 2014

Herndon retiring as Enid tennis coach

ENID, Okla. — Darrell Herndon made sure his second “retirement’’ as Enid High’s tennis coach would be longer than his first.

Herndon officially passed the torch to longtime assistant Carl Gaebler Wednesday, effective the end of the season, ending a tenure that began as the boys coach in spring of 1974.

Herndon, who took Enid to five girls state titles (1988, 1993, 1994, 1997 and 2001) and one boys crown (1994), first retired five years ago, only to retake the reins by the end of the summer.

“The first time I was pretty nervous about it because I had been doing it all of my life,’’ Herndon said. “This time I have a much better feeling about it. I’m looking forward to it more.’’

Gaebler, an assistant for seven years, had been taking on more responsibility this spring, making some tournaments without Herndon.

“Some of that was to help him adapt and some of it was me getting a little lazy on my schedule,’’ Herndon said. “I’ve mentioned a few times before that I think the kids would be more excited and more adaptable to a younger coach. Sometimes I’ve said things to them that I thought was pretty funny and they looked at me differently.’’

Gaebler had been an assistant coach in softball and boys basketball, but will concentrate solely on tennis on the varsity level. He also will assist with freshmen boys basketball.

“It’s exciting and nerve wracking,’’ Gaebler said about being a head coach for the first time. “I’ve been excited to be a part of Enid High School tennis. This is a high time for me and my family.’’

Gaebler was a state qualifier in doubles at Hominy High School where he also played football and basketball.

He is a graduate of both Northern Oklahoma College Tonkawa and Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

“I’ve been sitting next to who I think is the best head coach in tennis in the state,’’ Gaebler said. “I’ve had the opportunity to learn from him in everything that he does. This is not to say I’m identical to him. There a few differences here and there ... but all the big things I’ve learned from coach Herndon.’’

Gaebler doesn’t feel any pressure succeeding Herndon, a one-time national coach of the year.

“There’s always some pressure, but that’s a positive,’’ he said. “I’ve always been the kind of person that pushes myself, regardless of the situation. That’s not an issue to me.’’

He considers himself a “player’s coach,’’ but said he’ll have some “growing pains’’ going from assistant to head coach.

“They know what I like and what I don’t like,’’ he said. “I they will be comfortable with me. We’re a family and we’re tight. I’ve coached a number of sports here, but there’s nothing like this group. I appreciate every one of them.’’

Gaebler said the transition has been easier with him being groomed as the next head coach this spring.

“I wanted to do things right by coach Herndon,’’ he said. “I anticipated he would coach as long as he wanted to coach tennis. I want him to enjoy this farewell tour. I didn’t push myself on anybody. He was good enough to let me go to seeding meetings by myself and learn some things that I can only learn by doing.”

Herndon took over the girls program in the spring of 1987 and won his first state championship the next season.

Enid athletic director Bill Mayberry praised Herndon’s accomplishments, noting there’s more tennis trophies and championships “than all of the other sports combined.’’

“I know you certainly want to continue that tradition,’’ Mayberry said to a meeting of EHS players about the moves. “It feels good to know that you’re respected as a program.’’

Boys athletic coordinator Steve Chard said in his 22 years as a coach in the state, Enid “has one of the most respected tennis programs in the state, that’s solely the work of coach Herndon.’’

Herndon wrestled and was an All-State football player at Blackwell High School. He played football at NOC Tonkawa and graduated from Phillips University.

He was a longtime assistant coach in football and had never played or coached tennis when he took the reins 40 years ago.

“I was fortunate to hang on the coat tails of a lot of great kids and parents over the years,’’ Herndon said to the players. “That far outweighs any negatives. I’ve been a very lucky person. No matter how many times I might pound on you about a number of things, I love you to death.’’

Herndon attributed his long tenure to “great players and parents’’ and a thick skin.

“You’re not going to please everybody,’’ he said. “You have to put the other stuff way in the background.’’

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