A basketball bond

Local coaches share storied past

YODER – Lingle-Fort Laramie’s boys basketball coach Steve Zimmerman has a long history with Southeast boys basketball coach Crockett Herring, coaching him as a senior in high school.

In the spring of 1988, Zimmerman, who was a coach at Torrington High School for six years, took the job as the head boys basketball coach at Southeast, where Herring, who was a five-sport letter-winner, was entering his senior year.

“I had never seen the man before, but when you’re a junior and senior in high school you don’t really pay that much attention,” Herring said of the new coach at the helm of the Southeast program.

Zimmerman met his new team before the 1988-89 season at a sports banquet.

“The first time I met Crockett I had just taken the job in the spring and went to a sports banquet and he won some awards and the whole team was there,” Zimmerman said of the sports banquet he was introduced at. “He told me, ‘All I want to do was play against Dale Reed.’ At the time, I had no idea who Dale Reed was.”

Reed, a guard for Little Snake River who went on to play for the University of Iowa and Washington State, was at the top of Herring’s list entering his senior year. Little did he know that a season after talking to his new coach about his goals, he would get a matchup against Reed and the Rattlers in the 1A state title game.

As a junior under Glenn Freeburg, who is now the athletic director at Guernsey-Sunrise, Herring and the Cyclones went to the state tournament after recording only five wins in the regular season. Southeast went 0-2 at the 1987-88 state tournament, losing to Big Horn (58-47) and St. Stephens (78-66).

Herring was an anchor in the post for the Cyclones. He admitted his teammates called him a black hole because if he got the ball, he was going to shoot.

“He is very much a competitive guy. The Crockett I knew was more athletically physical – ‘I will physically dominate you,’” Zimmerman said. “He was an enforcer as a ball player and as a person he was a bit of a prankster. Over the years, he was one of my favorite players that I’ve coached.”

In Herring’s senior year, Zimmerman took the reins and turned the program around into a team that contended for a state title.

“The system (that Zimmerman implemented) just fit our players and it just took a little bit for us to adjust,” Herring said. “It was great coaching on his part. He fit with us and we fit with him.”

In 1989, Herring and the Cyclones got their matchup against Reed and the Rattlers. Zimmerman led Southeast to the 1A state championship game a year after the program had just five wins. At the state tournament, the Cyclones bested Dubois (60-36) and Cokeville (55-44) on their way to the championship game. Against Little Snake River, Southeast came us just short, losing 52-50 to finish as the state runner-up.

“It didn’t take too long and you had a lot of respect for Steve,” Herring said. “He was in it for us. We started gaining confidence. It was a fun ride senior year because we were so competitive.”

After Herring graduated, Zimmerman went on to guide the Cyclones to multiple state tournaments. His career lasted seven years at Southeast, where he reached four state tournaments, finishing second (’89), fifth (’90), fourth (’92) and third (’93).

“I’m very grateful to have played for him,” Herring said. “He turned a program that was average into a team who played for state championships.”

Recently, the relationship between Zimmerman and Herring has picked back up. Zimmerman took over the L-FL boys program six years ago and Herring has been on the Southeast coaching staff for five seasons. From 2014-16, Tim Williams was the head coach of the Cyclones, with Herring as an assistant. Zimmerman also coached Williams when he was in high school.

“I’m certainly proud of (Herring). I’m proud of all of the guys who go on to coach. Since (Herring) is local, I have to deal with him more often,” Zimmerman said with a laugh. “I enjoy and take a lot of pride that they’re involved in it, but it hurts like heck to lose to them.”

Last season, Herring took over the Cyclone program as the head coach. He led Southeast to a 12-13 season a year ago.

“It’s very important,” Herring said of returning to his alma mater as the head coach. “Once you’re a Cyclone, you’re always a Cyclone. If you play at Southeast, there is an expectation.

“You want to give back to the school and program that you played for,” Herring added.

On top of coaching at rival schools, the duo both work for the Goshen County School District so they see each other often.

“We once in a while bring something back from 1989. It’s always fun to reminisce,” Herring said. “We see each other a lot and we talk about basketball or anything. It’s a real friendship there.”

In the three matchups between the two coaches since both have been head coaches, Herring and the Cyclones hold a 2-1 edge over Zimmerman and the Doggers.

The rivalry between the schools and the friendly rivalry between the familiar coaches resumes again on Saturday, when the two programs lock horns at Eastern Wyoming College with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff. During the game, it may sound like an echo from bench to bench.

“Whenever him and I sit down and talk, we run a lot of the same things,” Zimmerman said. “There aren’t many secrets between us.

“It’s a little weird because he’ll call outlaw and it’s the same outlaw I run,” Herring said.

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