Herrmann takes passion to new program

Pete Herrmann has plenty of things to keep him busy.

If he’s not recruiting, he’s working on scheduling. There are uniforms to be designed, equipment to be bought, staff to be organized and seemingly thousands of other details to be ironed out.

And yet somehow, a void remains in the life of the man hired to restart the men’s basketball program at Young Harris College.

“I love coaching, but we don’t have any practices right now,” Herrmann said. “It’s the first time in 40 years I’m not coaching and involved in practices. I have all kinds of projects, though. I have to throw my enthusiasm into different areas of the program.”

That’s no problem for Herrmann, a 61-year-old former Georgia assistant known for his infectious personality, boundless energy and passion for his players and the game. He was hired in September, giving him a year to construct a program from scratch as the school in the North Georgia mountains transitions from being a junior college to a four-year school. The team is set to open competition in the 2010-11 season.

Herrmann is using this school year to build a base and recruit the players he hope will come in next year to form the core of his first team.

“This is real challenging, but I’m having a blast,” he said. “This is a lot of fun. Starting this program is a lot of fun. We’re getting out recruiting and selling the program to kids inside and outside the state of Georgia. The reception has been great and we’re doing all the work necessary to make this school proud of this basketball program.”

Herrmann was an assistant under Dennis Felton at Georgia from 2003 until last spring. When Felton was fired Jan. 29, Herrmann took over as interim coach for the final six weeks of the season.

While the Bulldogs finished 12-20, under Herrmann, they defeated Florida on Feb. 14 and Kentucky on March 7, the best wins of another forgettable season.

That taste of running a program for the first time since he was the coach at Navy (1986-92) fueled his desire to pursue the Young Harris job. Athletics director Eric Geldart conducted a national search, but knew he had the perfect candidate when Herrmann expressed interest.

“We were looking for a coach who had experience, who had recruited the area and someone who would be recognizable,” Geldart said. “We wanted someone who can walk into a gym or a room and say, ‘Hey, coach, how you doing? I’m at Young Harris College.’ We need that kind of recognition. He gives us all of that.”

Herrmann is Young Harris’ first coach since Luke Rushton led the Mountain Lions from 1948 until the program was dropped in 1969. Young Harris has petitioned to join NCAA Division II and is pursuing joining either the Peach Belt Athletic Conference or the South Atlantic Conference.

The school, which also has added a women’s team, is building a 1,200-seat student activities center. Herrmann said the opening game against North Georgia & State has been scheduled for Nov. 15, 2010.

Herrmann, who has a house on nearby Lake Chatuge, is doing his part to sell the program to the student body, which is projected to reach about 750 next fall, Geldart said. Herrmann held a Midnight Madness in October, running drills and a practice for students. He said anybody who participated guaranteed themselves a spot in the program, as “managers, staff people and office workers. We’re trying to build a real big family here.”

“Every one on campus is excited about Coach Herrmann and about bringing basketball back to YHC,” Geldart said. “He’s got everybody excited. He’s building on our tradition and moving it forward.”

Geldart said he didn’t know Herrmann before the interview process and has no problem with his age.

“He fit exactly what we were looking for,” Geldart said. “He is the person who is going to make the inroads for us. He is the person who is in the best position to help get us started. His experience, background and energy were just what we were looking for at this time.”