The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Prep Hoops: Griffin leaving Bulldog basketball

  • Harrisburg assistant Erik Griffin accepts head coaching job at Meridian
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  • Carrier Mills product Erik Griffin jokes that he has never really minded being a backup singer.
    The 1986 Wildcat graduate and former SIU star now has a chance to grab the mic and stand under the spotlight.
    Griffin announced Wednesday that he has accepted the head coaching vacancy at Meridian High School and will also be the school's athletic director.
    Griffin replaces longtime head coach Jeff Mandrell, who spent 16 seasons at the helm of the Bobcats, finishing with a winning percentage of .723 and finishing 342-131. Mandrell reached the Super-Sectional in back-to-back years from 2010-11 and 2011-12.
    Griffin, who spent three years (1994-96) as an assistant to Matt Wynn at Meridian, considers this in many ways as a coming home experience.
    "I really do consider Meridian my coaching home," Griffin said. "From the support of the administration, staff, parents, players and fans to the relationship that I have with all of them, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up."
    Griffin has been an assistant on the Harrisburg boys' basketball team the better part of the last four years, but in some capacity has been a member of the Bulldog program since 1998.
    "It's a very bittersweet moment right now," Griffin said. "I still have mixed emotions and just like at Meridian, I still have great relationship with a lot of people in Harrisburg. I had the opportunity to watch guys like Kyle Smithpeters to Tyler Smithpeters grow from children into men. When November rolls around, it's going to be very odd to not be in Davenport Gymnasium."
    Griffin acknowledged the notion that three or four months ago, the opportunity to become a head coach never crossed his mind. However, coaching an AAU club out of Evansville, Indiana lit a fire under Griffin not even he knew existed.
    "We played really well this summer, to the point where it got me thinking about becoming a head coach. I wanted this challenge and I knew my window for becoming a head coach was closing very quickly. I needed to feed that beast."
    Griffin inherits one — if not the — winningest Class A basketball schools in Illinois.
    On that notion, he also realizes he doesn't walk into a situation and have to make wholesale changes.
    "From guys like Matt Wynn to Brandon Henshaw and Randy Smithpeters, I have picked up things along the way. I would be a fool to have not, but if there is one thing I know from being at Harrisburg, it's about expectations and those same expectations can be met at Meridian.
    "Two years ago, (Harrisburg) was the No. 1 ranked team in the state arguably from start to finish. I saw how coach Smithpeters prepared in practice and what happened on and off the court. I would much rather put myself in a situation where the expectation is win, rather than just compete. We will draw attention to how we play, not what happens off the court or in the stands."
    Page 2 of 2 - The "family reunion" will happen soon according to Griffin, when school starts in a few weeks and he assumes dual roles as athletic director and basketball coach."
    "I've already called guys like coach (Jay) Thompson and a few other friends, letting them know I have them on speed dial to make sure I'm doing things the right ways and lean on them for support. It's a challenge I'm looking forward to."
    Michael Dann can be reached at mdann@dailyregister.com. Follow on twitter: @spydieshooter.
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