THE FRONT ROW with MARK NELKE: Daughter, former coach reflect on ex-NIC star's triumph
Like any good sports fan, Lindsay Herbert was flipping through the channels one day a few weeks ago, trying to find some sports to have on the television in the background while she was working with a client at Coeur Training, a fitness training center in Coeur d’Alene where she is a co-owner.
She happened upon an exhibition men’s basketball game between the U.S. and Germany.
“All of a sudden there was a bad call,” Lindsay remembered, “and they panned to the German bench, and they panned to the German coach and he was arguing with the ref, and I go, ‘Holy s*&$, that’s my dad.’”
That is when she discovered that her father, former North Idaho College and University of Idaho star Gordie Herbert, was coaching the German national team.
So she started recording Germany’s games (which were often on in the middle of the night, or way-too-early in the morning) and watching them later.
The U.S. won that exhibition game. But a few weeks later, when they met in the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup, Germany won by two points in a bit of a stunner — to the U.S.
Two days later, Lindsay watched on tape as Germany defeated Serbia in the championship game.
Her dad was a world champion.
“It’s been really fun, actually,” Lindsay said of the experience. “I’ve gotten a lot of joy in seeing his success, and just having that connection with basketball, and that passion for basketball.”
Following his days at NIC and Idaho, the Penticton, British Columbia-born Gordie Herbert has spent most of his life playing and coaching internationally.
“I know he’s become quite the celebrity over there,” Lindsay said. “He told me even the chancellor called him (after they won the championship game). You can tell it’s a huge deal for him. There’s video and pictures of him in the locker room, on the floor, crying.You could tell it was super emotional.”
ONE OF Rolly Williams’ sons let him know that Gordie was coaching the German national team. So Rolly, who recruited Gordie to NIC and coached him there from 1977-79, sounded somewhat like the proud father — understandable, since Gordie was once married to Rolly’s daughter Shana.
“Well I was pleased, obviously,” said Rolly, who coached NIC for 35 seasons. The basketball court at NIC’s Christianson Gym is named in his honor. “He’s made quite a name for himself internationally in basketball.”
As a coach evaluating Gordie’s success, Rolly said, “Well, I think what he’s done is he allows people to do what they’re able to do, which is one of the things that the pros are good at. Because I think they (the Europeans) were adjusting their game to be more like ours. It’s been more of an extemporaneous game. You can throw five Americans out on the floor, and they can function with each other. You get Europeans … and what they’ve done in the past, they pass here and cut there, instead of adjusting to what’s happening. And I think that’s what’s happening now, is that they’re making their game similar to ours. And I think Gordie’s been with enough coaches that he’s been able to see different styles to ours.
“I think they (Europeans) were more robotic, if you will, in the old days. When you know where somebody’s going to cut, it makes them a lot easier to defend.”
“They let people do what they do.”
Williams said he saw the shooter in Gordie when he recruited him to NIC.
“I’ve always been a great fan of Gordie’s; he was a great player,” said Williams, now 84. “He was the type of guy that couldn’t jump that well, but he was a helluva rebounder — he had a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He was a smart player.”
Williams recommended Gordie to Don Monson, then the Idaho coach, and Gordie became a key member of the Vandals’ Sweet 16 run in the 1982 NCAA tournament.
Gordie Herbert, now 64, played overseas for 12 years. He’s been a coach at various stops since 1994, mostly overseas. He was briefly an assistant with the Canadian national team, and recently coached a pro team in Germany, in addition to his national team duties.
“I’m very proud of him, obviously,” said Williams, Lindsay’s grandfather. “I think that’s a great accomplishment for what he’s done. I think he’s opened the door for some really exciting things in his future.”
COMMUNICATING WITH her father recently, Lindsay said she got the sense from him that team chemistry and team building was important.
“He definitely had the talent,” Lindsay said, “but he was just trying to create that chemistry early on, and it showed. They definitely liked playing together, and they definitely were passionate.”
Lindsay lived in Moscow the first couple years of her life while Gordie finished up at Idaho. They then lived overseas while Gordie played professionally.
Gordie and Shana divorced then Lindsay was 5, and mom and daughter moved back to Coeur d’Alene. A year later, Shana met Greg Crimp, owner of the Sports Cellar sporting goods store in downtown Coeur d'Alene, and NIC women’s basketball coach. Soon after, Greg became Lindsay’s stepfather, and Greg and Shana went on to have twin daughters.
Lindsay went on to star at Lake City High and the University of Utah, before playing professionally for one season in southern Germany, where folks would often ask her if she was related to Gordie Herbert.
Lindsay, now 43, was a fixture in the women’s elite division at Hoopfest for years, until a torn patella tendon in 2010 ended that portion of her playing career.
Gordie eventually remarried, and they had two sons.
“Everyone that’s seen me play says I play just like him, I move like him,” Lindsay said. “But Greg was really the huge influence in my life when it came to basketball, just being in that NIC gym every day. He coached all of my AAU teams, so genetically, I give my dad credit, but all the growth and development, I owe it all to Greg.”
Lindsay watched the recording of the game shortly after the actual game ended — careful not to look at social media, to find out what happened ahead of time.
“Right after the game I messaged him, thinking he probably wasn’t up because it was the middle of the night there by then,” Lindsay said. “But he texted me right back — I think they were up all night celebrating, that’s for sure.”
Gordie Herbert is beloved in Germany, and is signed to coach the national team through EuroBasket 2025.
Meanwhile, thousands of miles away, watching in Coeur d’Alene as her dad coached his team to a world championship …
“It almost made me feel like I was a part of it, in a very weird and distant way,” Lindsay said. “When they won (as she watched the recorded version of the game), I actually jumped up and kind of got a little emotional, just knowing what he had accomplished.”
Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 208-664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @CdAPressSports.