The familiar smells and sounds, the trickling in of fans, all of it brought back that old feeling to Ferndale High boys basketball coach Herb Goliday.
“It was surreal, because it brought back that competitive feel,” Goliday said of the first game this season. “It was a fun feeling.”
The Eagles lost that early December tilt at Southfield High, but marked Goliday’s beginning as Ferndale’s new head coach.
“It’s been a great honor to come back in and be the head coach at the school where it all started for myself,” the 2001 graduate said. “There are a lot of great memories playing here. I’m just trying to help bring back a winning tradition from the Ferndale that I knew when I played.”
Goliday was a four-year starter for the Eagles, earning All-State honors as a senior. During his playing days, Ferndale won two district titles.
Last season’s district championship was the program’s first since Goliday’s senior year.
After graduation, Goliday played for Central Michigan University before finishing with Wayne State University. He was then an assistant with Ferndale for four seasons.
Goliday said one of his main goals is to get his kids to understand that they have to be a student of the game and in the classroom.
“I tell the kids, ‘You have to want to push yourself.’ Everyone wants to play the next level of ball, but it’s not always going to happen. So the education has to be important,” he said. “Don’t just get by to be eligible. We push study table and stress that education is important.”
Junior captain Robert Deiz said the team is getting the message.
“We just got out of study table. He always wants to make sure our grades are good. It shows he cares and is trying to get us to the next level,” Deiz said. “He’s the best coach I’ve had in a while.”
Deiz is the lone returning starter and one of three total players who were on the team last season. The roster has eight juniors and two seniors with little game-time experience.
At press time, Ferndale was 3-8 overall and 0-4 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division.
“Our record doesn’t show it, but I’m satisfied with the effort that I get. They play hard. As a new coach with a new group, if you’re able to get them to run through a brick wall for you, you’re happy to see that. Now the part is, we have to teach them to win games,” Goliday said. “Once we get a summer together, I think you’ll see much more of an improvement.”
With only 10 players on the team and a lack of size, Ferndale plays an aggressive zone on defense in an effort to save its legs and match up more effectively.
On offense, it looks to push the ball.
“We try to slow (the opponent’s) pace down when they’re on offense, then speed them up when they’re on defense,” the coach said, adding that he believes in tailoring schemes to the personnel rather than trying to force something to work.
The Eagles realize that much of this season is about laying the foundation to Goliday’s new program, but they’re also looking to defend their Class B district title.
“I think that’s the big advantage in basketball; everyone goes to the playoffs,” he said. “I keep that in the players’ heads, but at the same time, we don’t look past our objective. We have to get better each game.”
Ferndale takes on Rochester High at 7 p.m. Feb. 15. During the game, the Eagles will honor long-time announcer Joe Mahan for his more than 65 years of service.