Sports helped shape Miami’s Hertz family for the better

 

It was a Homecoming for Darren Hertz when the University of Florida men’s basketball team competed in the annual MetroPCS Orange Bowl Basketball Classic at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.

Is Hertz on the Gators roster? The reserve guard? A red-shirt freshman?

You won’t find his name on that list, but he is an important part of the Gators’ hoops program. Hertz is the director of basketball operation for the nationally ranked University of Florida under coach Billy Donovan.

Hertz grew up with a father who excelled in baseball. Steve, a former pro baseball player, was a well-known baseball coach at Miami-Dade Community College.

Because of the rich baseball talent in Florida, Miami-Dade College featured three baseball programs — Demie Mainieri at Miami-Dade North, Charlie Green at Miami-Dade South and Steve Hertz at Miami-Dade Central. Because of cutbacks, it morphed into one, and school officials opted with Hertz, who was younger than his Miami-Dade baseball coaching peers.

Steve starred as an infielder at Miami High. In 1964, he had a cup of coffee with the Houston Colt .45s (Astros). After winning an International League title in 1969 with the Tidewater Tides, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets, Steve turned to coaching. He earned a degree in physical education from the University of Miami in the off-season and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Nova University in 1987.

Steve managed the Coral Park High School baseball team to a Florida state championship in 1978 and amassed 300 career victories. He became a baseball coach at Miami-Dade Community College where he compiled an impressive 778-283 career mark, averaging more than 35 wins per season. He coached in the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival and the Junior Pan American Maccabi Games, as well as managed the Tel Aviv Lightning of the Israel Baseball League.

His sons made their own sports mark, and that was perfectly OK with their father.

Steve never forced baseball on his two sons, Jeff and Darren. Jeff did well in football, and Darren took to basketball at an early age. Their mom, Fran, said Darren held a basketball in his hands since he was 2 years old. Darren played baseball as a youth and played well, but basketball was his first love.

A basketball hoop stood outside the Hertz’s home, and Darren played a lot there. He also competed in basketball leagues at the (Dave & Mary Alper) Jewish Community Center in Kendall. When Darren celebrated his Bar Mitzvah, he posed for a photo with a basketball.

Darren made Miami Herald All-Dade as a point guard for Killian High School. His backcourt teammate was Raja Bell, a former FIU standout and current NBA player. Hertz turned to academics in college, receiving a degree in sociology in 1997. He still loved the game and found other ways to be involved.

Darren began that journey at UF as a student assistant/volunteer for the 1996-97 season, the Gators’ first under Donovan. He’s been with Donovan ever since, including two NCAA Division I national championships.

In 2001, Darren became the Gators’ first video coordinator.

Prior, Darren was the head coach of Team Mercy Hospital in the Pharmed Men’s Collegiate Summer League (1997-98) in Miami, garnering Up-And-Coming Coach honors. He served as an assistant coach on the district champion PK Younge High School team in Gainesville during the 1999-00 season.

Darren has been very good to the University of Florida and vice-versa. He even met his wife, Julie, there. They have a son, Brandon Levi, 3, and daughter, Alexa Sara, 1.

With the values provided by his parents, Darren will use what he learned from them with his kids. Whatever they want to do, Julie and he will support.

After seven seasons as assistant to the head coach at Florida, Darren was promoted to director of basketball operations in 2012. He directs the day-to-day operations of Florida basketball — including coordinating the non-conference schedule, organizing underclassmen recruiting and planning team travel. He also oversees the team’s student managers, assists with video scouting and directs the annual Billy Donovan summer camps. That’s where he sees kids of all ages, learning and playing basketball.

During the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, Darren stood near the public address announcer, Jay Rokeach, who was the sports information director at Miami-Dade North Community College. “Jayro“ also worked the mike for University of Miami baseball, basketball and football games, the Florida Marlins and Florida Panthers.

Darren said his biggest inspiration is his father, who taught him about sports and life.

In the stands at the BB&T Center, Darren’s parents sat with friends Jill Beach, and Cassandra and Marc Rodriguez. Longtime friends, they met while attending Miami High. Les Persan did not go to Miami High. He graduated from South Broward High, but he is a friend who also supported Darren and the Gators. Adam, Darren’s longtime friend, was seated nearby with others.

YouTube Video Interview with Darren Hertz

Jim Varsallone (the jimmyv3 channel)

Hertz discusses youth basketball, parenting in sports and more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eektfn7RT2c

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVsE0suBTEg

Read more Miami-Dade Youth Sports stories from the Miami Herald

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