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Midvale Journal

Herlin ‘scores’ with coaches, players for consistency, accuracy

Feb 09, 2021 03:19PM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest High scorekeeper Ken Herlin looks up from his book at halftime of the Skyline-Hillcrest girls basketball game. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

For 32 years from his reserved seat courtside for every game, Hillcrest High math teacher Ken Herlin has watched nearly every home varsity girls’ basketball game and a great percentage of their away games. 

His daughter never played ball for the Huskies. He has never outwardly cheered during a game nor coached them to a victory, but ask him about a player during a certain year, and his near photographic memory allows him to be able to recite her stats and the impact she has made on the team.

Herlin began keeping score for the Huskies in 1988, only missing one year when he taught math at Albion Middle School instead of at Hillcrest. 

“He’s been the constant thing about girls basketball,” said Whitney Lott, who played 2010-12 for the Huskies, then coached the sophomore team for three years beginning in 2015. “I don’t even know how many years he’s been the scorekeeper. I just know he’s always here.”

It was coach Jeanie Wilson, who coached 13 years from 1976 to 1989, who asking Herlin to keep score.

“I don’t remember why I asked him, but I remember he was responsible, dependable and dedicated,” Wilson said. “It was such a relief not to have to worry about the book. I loved him for that. It was hard to get someone to go to the gym once or twice a week. He has to keep his eyes on the ref and the book and writes down every call meticulously. The refs love him because he’s so accurate and right on. He’s genuinely a kind, good person and has a photographic mind.”

Herlin remembered he was surprised to be asked.

“I didn’t know there was such a thing, but I’m a big basketball fan,” he said, adding this way he got his fix by also attending BYU basketball games with his dad. “When the girls lost in semis my first year, it was heartbreaking. We had Nikki Eyre—I remember her because I also had her in my geometry class—and she lead the team with assists, she was a good shooter and good three-point shooter and then Audrey Richards was the point guard; she was a good player so we had a good back court.” 

That started his tenure through seven head coaches and this year, his eighth. He keeps track of the players’ scoring free throws, field goals, three-point shots, fouls and timeouts from 1992’s Gatorade State Player of the Year Cindy Jensen to the girl who only gets a few minutes all season.

“Some coaches are really interested at halftime to know who’s in foul trouble on both teams or they’ll come over and ask me how many timeouts they have left. I would get to know what they were going to ask before they come to the table,” Herlin said. 

That was true for Audrey Richards Fish, who played for the Huskies in 1984-88, then coached 1999-2008.

“I’m screaming on the sidelines, about to get a technical foul, and he’d calmly hold up the number of fouls for so-and-so on his fingers; I didn’t need to ask,” Fish recalled. “I always could count on him.”

Fish described him as “unmatched.”

“I never saw him make a mistake. He always knows what was going on, every detail. He has a calm disposition and wasn’t biased, so he is well respected by officials and other teams,” she said. “He’s just a good solid awesome human being that cares about the game.”

Fish said as a student, she didn’t have Herlin as a teacher, but knew students respected him on and off the court.

“He would hand me the book and tell me the girls played great. Even in a loss, he knew their stats, and didn’t push his ideas. He recognized his role and did it well, without complaint. He doesn’t like the limelight, or need the center stage, but afterwards, he always had a thoughtful comment and treated the team with respect,” Fish said.

Herlin, who wears a striped officials shirt, admits that some games it’s hard to not cheer on the team he regularly follows.

“One year, in the early 1990s when Sarah Habel was the coach, they won the region championship. They had to win their last game of the season to win it. That was the one and only time I gave extra credit to students to attend the game to cheer them on. It’s not the thing I usually do, but I remember it being a big deal and everybody was hyping it up,” he said.

Herlin also appreciates seeing students pursue their interests outside of the classroom, where he has taught math at Hillcrest 36 years, including since 1991, for advanced placement students and since 2002, for international baccalaureate students as well.

“It’s fun and I congratulate them after the win. The next day, I’d tell them how well they played. Typically, the girl basketball players are always hard workers in class,” he said. 

That’s true in recent years as well as in the past, he said. Gabriella Desjardins, class of 2018, played point for the Huskies and was a leader in assists, but also was “really good, one of the better math students; she was a really good student,” he said. 

He also recalled when Desjardins played alongside Taylee Allen, Hope Higgs, Bella Jensen, Cara Snowder and others, battling against Kearns in the last regular game of their senior season. 

“They were behind the entire game—four quarters and they were behind the entire overtime. Then, somehow, they were able to come back and win it in double overtime,” he said. “That might be as exciting a game as I’ve seen. I had kind of given up on them, but they pulled it off. That was their undefeated season in region.” 

Although his demeaner is calm, and he has never coached, he admits he roots for the Huskies.

“It’s a fun game to watch. I’m supposed to be impartial at the table, like no cheering or anything like that, so when I do the little fist pumps, I will make sure the referee doesn’t see me doing it,” he said. “I don’t always agree with the ref, but I keep it to myself. There’s three of us at the table —the person on the clock, me and the opposing scorekeeper—and we ask each other what happened, who just shot, who the foul was on and make sure that we agree we all heard what the referee said correctly. Sometimes we have to call the referee over again because one of us thought he said one number and one of us thought another number, but our job is to keep it right, make sure it’s right the way the referee called it.” 

After three decades, Herlin has no thoughts of jumping over to the boys’ game or throwing in the towel.

“It was the girls’ coach who asked me,” he said, who has an appreciation for their game. “It’s easier to see their improvement from some players as they go from game to game.” He added that through the years, “the biggest change is there are more good teams around the state.” 

Some years, he has traveled to away games to keep score and some, he has also been the scorekeeper for JV. This year, with COVID-19, he has restricted his time to varsity games, but Herlin is supportive of all student-athletes.

“I find out how the sophomore and JV teams have done; I have had some students who are on the team working on homework between games and occasionally, I’ve been asked questions” on assignments, he said.

Herlin said the highlight of being a teacher is “seeing the light go on when a student finally realizes something you’ve been trying to get through to them.” He added that he’s had student-athlete come up to him during the game, saying they figured out a problem they were stuck on in class.

This year, his scorekeepers’ table has a different look—higher and longer—and a different view as the Huskies are playing in a new sports complex.

Joining him, for the past six years, is fellow Hillcrest math teacher Matt Snyder, who runs the clock.

“We’ll talk about the game, or other things going on—or math,” Herlin said.

That’s what former Hillcrest math teacher Shawn McLeod, who coached the Huskies from 1996-99, recalls talking about with Herlin.

“He’s extraordinarily smart and has a sharp mind, so we talked math talk since we’re both math nerds,” he said. “Ken is just a favorite guy. He said he’d do ‘whatever you need me to do so you can coach.’ We could talk stats, high percentage shots and inside lane strategies, but it was all centered around math. We hit it off that way.”