On a recent Saturday, before covering a University of Redlands football game, I stopped by my neighborhood donut shop and purchased a coffee. While I was there, I grabbed a copy of the Highland Community News.
Thumbing through the pages, I saw an article on Harry “Doc” Ervin and the memories came flooding back.
Ervin is the new superintendent of schools for the San Bernardino City Unified School District. The newspaper reported that some parents are upset about Ervin’s methods and his demeanor. But when I knew him a little over a decade ago, he was simply a parent of one of my players in the Beaumont Youth Basketball Association.
Backtracking, I coached youth basketball off and on for about 20 years. I guided teams in my native San Bruno, as well as in Aptos, Redlands, Yucaipa and Beaumont. And I’ve coached some good kids. No credit to me, but Dr. John Xerogeanes of Atlanta (they call him Dr. X) who once operated on former President Jimmy Carter and Trent Dilfer, the winning quarterback of Super Bowl XXXV, both played hoops for me. But enough name-dropping.
I’ll count Harry “Doc” Ervin’s son, Luis, as one of the many great kids I’ve had the pleasure to coach. But things got off to a rocky start.
In Beaumont I don’t recall there being a player draft, I think the players were just divided up somehow. Luis wound up on my team, which also included my son Kyle and Perry Amador II of Redlands, whose father was my assistant coach.
We lost our first game, then played a team of kids who were hastily assembled right before the season. They had all just finished their tackle football season and, not surprisingly, were some of the best pre-teen athletes in the city. They were well-coached too and drilled us by like 30 points. Ouch.
I was slow to leave the gym, as I scrambled to pick my wounded pride off the floor. Meantime, my players gathered for my post-game address outside the gym. A parent handed out treats, and then there was a bit of a dust-up. Luis had friends on the other team and was mortified by our blowout loss. He reacted by removing his jersey and tossing it and his treat on the asphalt before stalking off. Not good.
I drove home to Redlands in a fog. I didn’t have much time because that night I was covering an all-star football game in Corona. But I recall sitting in my living room thinking, my team is 0-2 and we just lost by 30 and my biggest, toughest player has apparently quit the team. Then the phone rang.
It was Harry “Doc” Ervin who, to my surprise, apologized for his son’s actions. I told him it was no big deal and that I understood he’s just a kid who felt embarrassed in front of his peers. But Doc told his son, “Your coach has treated you with respect and you need to treat him with respect.” He promised me Luis would be at practice Monday and he wouldn’t be a problem.
And he wasn’t. For the rest of the season, the young man was a joy to coach. I have not seen him since but I recall him being a sweet, respectful kid who was a good athlete. And I credit Doc for not only that but the support he gave me in my role as a volunteer coach.
I’m not sure what the beef is some parents over in San Bernardino have with the man. But as far as I'm concerned Harry “Doc” Ervin is an OK guy, and I’m sure he’ll do a fine job with San Bernardino City Unified.
John Murphy may be reached at email@example.com.