You know him as one of the voices of Aggie radio and television.
He’s the executive director of Sacramento’s branch of the Positive Coaching Alliance and, together with his wife Mary Ellen, has created his own family volleyball dynasty at El Camino High School.
Once you hear his commanding broadcast voice, you know you’re listening to Bill Herenda. Once you sit and chat everything sports with the guy, you know you’ve met the Real Deal.
“To me, athletics is something I was born into and fell in love with,” Herenda told me, his enthusiastic baritone bringing me along for a memorable conversation over morning coffee. “And what a great way to bring people together. … (Sports) is a great galvanizer.”
Herenda, 46, is a native of Jersey City, N.J. His grandfather, Bill Bergin, and great uncle, Tony Callandriello, played barnstorming baseball with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Herenda and his brother Greg played basketball at storied St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey and gravitated to UMass-Lowell, where Bill played on the national championship 1988 squad. Brother Greg remains in Lowell as the school’s men’s basketball coach.
Herenda’s love affair with sports continued with, well, a love affair. Bill and Mary Ellen (UC Davis gridiron legend Ken O’Brien’s sister) have three daughters — Bridget, Clare and Devin — all of whom are standout volleyball players.
Bridget attends UCD, Clare is at Sacramento State and Devin, a sophomore at Sac-Joaquin Section Division II champion El Camino, is one of America’s ranking prep players.
“Marrying an O’Brien, you can expect these kinds of Irish names,” Herenda says, laughing.
His positions as broadcaster — he also is a frequent contributor on national radio and regional cable television — and as PCA boss are other perfect Herenda marriages.
The Positive Coaching Alliance was created at Stanford and is a national nonprofit that works with youth, prep and collegiate coaches and their players in an effort to provide a character-building and positive athletic experience.
When the Capitol-area chapter was created, board members included former Aggie football coach Jim Sochor and ex-NFL standout Rob Awalt. They knew Herenda and his commitment to sports done right.
“They thought, ‘Hey, this may be a good fit for Bill and PCA,’ ” Herenda told me. “So the stars were kind of aligned … and it’s been a great experience for me to combine my passion for sports and kids and also work in the business end of PCA to ensure the fiscal viability of the whole operation.
“It has been a lot of fun.”
Herenda is engaging, and his heartfelt approach for the kids is palpable.
“My first exposure to PCA was when I was helping a friend coach his son’s team in grammar-school basketball,” the Aggie color man says. “We had to go through a PCA workshop. I came away very impressed.”
About that 1988 UMass title winner …
Herenda played guard at the school that he says reminds him a lot of UCD. He didn’t start much, but by his senior year he was UMass’ go-to sixth man.
“That experience has helped me as a broadcaster — and with PCA — because I can identify with guys when things are going well,” Herenda explained, “then, identify with guys when they’re struggling, trying to get minutes.
“My appreciation for the game increased through the experience back East,” Herenda believes.
Herenda gravitated to his UCD gigs when O’Brien introduced him to then-Assistant Athletic Director Larry Swanson. Other friends had him meet Aggie play-by-play announcer Scott Marsh. He was almost instantly brought into the local KSAC (FM 105.5) radio fold.
Herenda’s family ties breach the Causeway — he lives in Sacramento and his wife’s brother the aforementioned Ken O’Brien is married to the former Stacey Sperbeck -sister of Sacramento State football coach Marshall Sperbeck.
In Herenda’s sports world, it’s all one big, happy family.
While I Have You Here: Davis High has enlisted about 50 percent of its current coaching roster for Positive Coaching Alliance workshops.
Blue Devil Athletic Director Dennis Foster loves PCA instruction and says another session is scheduled in the spring for those coaches who haven’t undergone training.
“It’s great,” Foster said.
Are you interested in getting involved in PCA or having a session for your league or staff? Contact Herenda at [email protected].
— Bruce Gallaudet is a staff writer for The Davis Enterprise. Reach him at [email protected] or 530-747-8047.