Longtime coach leaves it all on the field
During the last minute of the last game Herriman High’s Larry Wilson coached in late October, the Mustangs produced a goal-line stand to keep the score at 27-16 in a losing effort against East in the 4A state football playoffs. With the longtime coaching legend’s retirement announcement Jan. 8, Wilson noted that last series in his last time on the field.
“That effort really crystallizes what we’ve tried to do here, and they battled to the end,” Wilson said. “I’m not as proud of how we’ve done as the way we’ve accomplished it – with honor, hard work and integrity.”
Wilson has coached in the high school, junior high and university ranks for 40 years, beginning with his first coaching job at Granada Hills High School in Los Angeles, Calif. in 1973. He came to Utah a year later to coach football and baseball at Murray High School. His career has included stops at Pierce Junior College in Los Angeles, Calif., Southern Utah University, University of Utah, Highland High, Hillcrest High, Ricks College and Herriman.
After coming to Herriman for the 2010 opening of the school, he helped build a program that reached the playoffs in its first year – something that had never been done before in Utah. The Mustangs also reached the postseason the past two seasons, which is also an unprecedented run for a three-year school.
“Establishing a new program is a true test of your beliefs that you implement from day one, and it is 100 percent on you,” Wilson said. “There is no history, no past, no identity and no tradition. I was reenergized by the challenge of putting together all the pieces, and it has been a high-energy three years.”
The ultimate deciding factor to retire for Wilson came when he was informed that he and his son, Jeff, were in violation of a state nepotism law. Jeff has been on the sidelines with his dad for three years as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator in the Mustangs program. The Wilsons were told that they had until June 2014 to comply with the statute, so the long-time coach began planning his departure.
Initially, Larry Wilson assumed it would be a natural transition for his son to take over as head coach of the Herriman program. But, Jeff and his wife, who have a young growing family, decided not to pursue the opportunity until their children were a little older. The younger Wilson will continue in his current capacity on the Mustangs coaching staff.
Following the 2012 season, a few of the other Herriman coaches informed Larry Wilson of their intent to move on to other opportunities. Wilson realized the timing would be better for him to step aside now, and allow new head coach Dustin Pearce, who was a defensive line coach for Herriman this past season, to assemble his own coaching staff.
“Being here at Herriman has been everything you could ever ask for,” Larry Wilson said. “This great administration gave me the opportunity, the coaching staff has been great and, from Day One, the tremendous outpouring from the community has been amazing. These great kids have believed in the vision we had when they had every reason not to believe. And then, to top it all off, I have been able to do this all with my son the past three years.”
“I have no regrets,” he said. “I’m very satisfied and I’ve been very blessed.”