Eric Richard won his 40Oth basketball game last month, counting boys and girls.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of watching Richard on the sideline would not be surprised by that at all.

Thursday night in Vidalia, Richard was constantly instructing his team, working the officials when they needed working (which was a lot), calling the right plays, getting on to his players when they needed it and motivating his team throughout the game.

They sure didn’t look like a team that had not played a game in three weeks.

Monterey was scheduled to play Montgomery on January 4 for its first game after the Christmas break, but that game was cancelled after a Montgomery coach’s wife passed away.

Richard made a call to Vidalia Athletic Director and head boys coach Damus Smith, who obliged with agreeing to host the Wolves Thursday.

More genius from Richard.

You’re playing a Class AA team, which means more power points, and you are playing at Vidalia, which is where you hosted a first-round playoff game last year.

Monterey’s gym is not big enough to host a playoff game. When the new gym is finally finished (maybe Richard should have been in on that project), the Wolves will finally get to host playoff games.

Getting back to the Vidalia game, that contest was one Monterey needed before district.  

With no scheduled game Friday, the Wolves would have gone into that game nearly four weeks without playing.

Richard, who took over the girls team last season to go along with his duties as boys coach, has an overall record of 383-257 as Monterey boys basketball coach.

Richard also led the Monterey baseball team to the Class B semifinals last year.

Thursday’s win was the first win for a Monterey team over Vidalia since 1976 when Jack Bairnsfather’s team handed Vidalia its second loss in four years on the Vikings’ home court with a 68-67 win.

That Monterey team was led by Robert Hamilton and Brunson Crouch.

That Vidalia team was led by Jesse Banks, Lonnie Cage and Kalpatrick Wells.

Richard picked up win No. 300 as Monterey boys coach in 2018 against Harrisonburg.

Richard has served as a head boys basketball coach for 21 years -- starting with three at Block, coaching at Monterey for two years before spending five years in Harrisonburg. He then returned to Block before taking over as head coach at Monterey in 2009.

“I never thought about total wins,” Eric said. “I have been blessed and fortunate to have good players and good teams.”

Eric played one year of basketball at Block High, and two years of football and four years of baseball.

“My mother (Becky) was an educator, so I grew up around sports,” said Eric, who attended Louisiana-Monroe after high school. “When I got to college I thought I was going to be an accountant. But I realized I wasn’t going to be happy doing that. I loved sports and I haven’t regretted getting into coaching. There is no doubt in mind this is what I was supposed to do.”

Two early influences for Eric were former Block football coach Emilio Tesei and former Block coach Buddy Trisler.

“I take some things from people I’ve played under and worked with,” Eric said. “It may be X’s and O’s, practice management or how to deal with kids and parents.”

And Eric said he has learned to adapt over the years.

“Kids are different now in that they have access to cell phones and other media,” Richard said. “But having kids that age certainly helped me. Kids want to be coached. It doesn’t matter the environment they are around, their home life or their economic situation. They all want to be coached. And they want to know you care. They can tell if you care about them and have their best interests at heart.”

Monterey’s team is fun to watch. Not just because they are scrappy.  But because they are fundamentally sound and well coached.  

And Richard takes time with camps and practices with future players.

That’s why he has 400 wins. 

And why I would put my money on him having 400 more if Monterey High is fortunate enough to have him sitting on the bench of the new gym for a few more years.

  

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