by Michael Smith
When longtime Grain Valley boys basketball coach Andy Herbert attended the University of Missouri, he thought coaching at the NCAA Division I level would be the route he would take.
He got to work as a student assistant with legendary Mizzou men’s basketball coach Norm Stewart and Quin Synder, the current head coach of the NBA’s Utah Jazz.
While it was an invaluable experience for Herbert, he was hesitant to want to go through the grind of recruiting and coaching college basketball players.
“I wanted a family,” Herbert said. “I wanted to be able to establish roots and be a part of a community. At the college level, that’s hard to do.
“A year and a half into college, I started to realize these guys are on the road all the time. They are on a plane as much as they are in Columbia. That’s just not the way I am wired. Being a college coach is not as flashy and fancy as it looks on TV.”
That’s when he started to consult his former high school basketball coach, Grain Valley legend and Missouri Basketball Coaches Association hall of famer Randy Draper. Herbert, who grew up in Camdenton, played for Draper there.
They stayed friends after Herbert graduated high school. Draper helped Herbert land a job in the Grain Valley district as a physical education teacher and an assistant boys basketball coach in the year 2000. He also currently serves as the boys golf coach.
Herbert started as a physical education teacher at Matthews Elementary School and eventually got the same position at Prairie Branch Elementary School. After that, he was the coordinator at the Sni Valley Academy and is now the A+ Program coordinator at Grain Valley High School.
As a coach, he was an assistant under Draper for five years before becoming the head boys basketball coach, a position he’s had for 16 years. Herbert has coached in five different conferences in his tenure at Grain Valley. He’s been with the program when it was regularly playing smaller schools like Lexington and Lafayette County.
Now the Eagles are playing against some of the biggest schools in Missouri like Blue Springs and Truman.
“I want to coach the kids that are here and do right by them,” Herbert said. “I don’t want to have to go out and get a kid. I want to make an impact with them.”
That’s exactly what he has done. Herbert has been a longtime staple with the Grain Valley school district and for the boys basketball team. However, when he first arrived, there was an adjustment period for Herbert.
“We love it here,” Herbert said. “Coming from Lake of the Ozarks and Camdenton, this is a very different place because it’s closer to the city. You’re driving on the interstate all the time here instead of lake roads. It’s a very different way of life than what I was used to.
“In Camdenton, you spend your summer on boat docks. It was a great place to grow up.”
After Herbert left Camdenton to attend the University of Missouri he got to spend one year coaching under Stewart and the rest under Snyder. The experience was invaluable, he said.
“If you paid attention, you learned a lot,” Herbert said.
“Both of them had very different ways of doing things. I learned how to build a team through toughness from Coach Stewart. Coach Snyder was more of a player development coach. He wanted to work with the best players and make them the best he could through skill development.
“All the stories I have while working with them, I could talk about that for hours.”
While Stewart and Snyder were influences on Herbert’s coaching career, Draper might have been the biggest influence of them all. Draper and Herbert use a team-oriented approach and both are player-friendly coaches, who seem to remain calm no matter the situation in any game.
In fact, if it wasn’t for Draper, Herbert may not have ended up at Grain Valley.
“I’ve known Coach Draper since 1987,” Herbert said. “He was my next door neighbor and coach growing up. As far as coaching, mentorship and friendship, he’s as close to me as my own father. He was 1B. The one thing that drew us here was him. He’s the reason we came.”
Herbert said he doesn’t plan on going to another district any time soon if ever. Being at the school for as long as he has allowed Herbert got to coach his son Owen for the first time at the high school level.
“He was at a district game at O’Hara and he was a few months old at the time,” Herbert said. “One of their players was diving for a loose ball and jumped over our bench and ended up hitting him.
“We joke all the time, ‘That you took your first charge when you were three months old.’ Now, he’s almost 17 and playing varsity. It’s been rewarding to see him out there playing.”
While Herbert grew up in Camdenton and considers that his hometown, his new home is in Grain Valley, and he hopes it stays that way for the foreseeable future for Owen, his wife and his two other children.
“We have raised three kids here and my wife teaches in the district,” Herbert said.
“The families and the people in Grain Valley .... it really doesn’t get any better than that. We haven’t found any reason to leave. As long as they keep accepting us, we aren’t going anywhere.”